Stoel Rives’ Transportation group provides full-service legal representation to the maritime, road/motor carrier (including autonomous vehicles), rail, aviation, and logistics industries, including on matters involving corporate transactions, land use, real estate, construction and design, track and corridor management, litigation, environmental, labor and employment, employee benefits, intellectual property, products liability, and tax issues. Our team of over 40 transportation-focused attorneys provides legal support to transportation industry clients across multiple jurisdictions.

Our clients include:

  • Ports and municipal transit authorities
  • Shipyards and marine terminals
  • Commercial fishing and processing facilities
  • Truck, automobile, and bus manufacturers and dealerships
  • Autonomous vehicle companies
  • Freight and cargo shipping and logistics companies
  • Rail carriers
  • Aviation entities

Our work within the transportation industry includes:

  • Construction contracting and litigation, including appellate
  • Environmental regulatory advice and counseling
  • Environmental insurance coverage and litigation
  • Contaminated sites work
  • Hazardous materials and dangerous goods transport
  • Emergency and crisis response
  • Safety regulatory advice and counseling
  • Real estate advice and transaction support, including acquisitions, dispositions, easements, and track and corridor management
  • Railbanking (“Rails to Trails”) under the National Trails System Act
  • Land use advice concerning permitting issues and eminent domain
  • Labor and employment
  • Employee benefits
  • Corporate (including, e.g., M&A, finance, joint ventures, and public-private partnerships)
  • Tax issues
  • Litigation

Ports and Transit Authorities

Public agencies are racing to upgrade infrastructure—including seaports, airport facilities, roadways, and transit systems—to keep pace with growth, alleviate congestion, and respond to systemic impacts such as climate change. The development of transportation infrastructure projects presents dynamic regulatory, commercial, compliance, and litigation challenges.

Our deep experience with the federal, state, and local regulatory frameworks in which ports and transit authorities do business (including on project permitting, compliance, and land use issues) allows us to advocate effectively for our public clients working on projects where economic development and various stakeholder interests (e.g., environmental) compete and converge.


Environmental and Land Use

  • Represent Port of Seattle in environmental work including superfund cleanup, compliance, and environmental litigation.
  • Represented regional transit client in securing multiple property line adjustments from the city with jurisdiction to facilitate the development of a light rail line.
  • Assisted regional transit client to develop a comprehensive land use and permitting strategy for project development.
  • Provided comprehensive environmental compliance counsel for vehicle and truck manufacturer, including representation in air and water permitting matters, enforcement matters, site cleanups, and the various environmental issues that arise in transactions relating to its facilities.
  • Represented regional transit client in numerous eminent domain actions to acquire real property in connection with light rail projects.
  • Assisted trailer manufacturer in connection with numerous environmental, health, and safety matters, including remediation of groundwater contamination under its owned and leased properties, including designing and implementing appropriate cleanup systems and/or negotiating and litigating with those responsible for releasing the contamination.
  • Served as condemnation counsel for public owner in connection with bridge replacement project in Portland, Oregon.
  • Represent regional transit client in securing regulatory approvals to construct bridge over major river.

Real Estate, Construction, and Development

  • Represented the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) in its claims against the tunneling contractor, Seattle Tunnel Partners. After a nine-week trial the jury returned a verdict in favor of WSDOT for the full amount of its claims, $57.2 million, and denied the contractor’s claims of $670 million. This dispute arose from the $1.35 billion Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement Project tunneling contract. The dispute arose when 1,000 feet into the two-mile tunnel drive the tunnel boring machine broke down and had to be lifted to the ground, where repairs and improvements were made. WSDOT recovered the full amount of its claimed liquidated damages under the tunneling contract.
  • Represent the Port of Everett in the negotiations of ground leases and purchase and sale agreements for the development of 254 apartments and a 140-room hotel. This is the first phase of the 65-acre, $373 million Waterfront Place Central Mixed-Use Development at the Port. We coordinated all the drafting, negotiation, and completion of the ground leases, purchase and sale agreements, and related development and construction documents.
  • Represent a port in a variety of construction matters, including contracts, specifications, and bid document drafting, analysis, and response to bid protests, and claims involving delay and defect issues arising out of port construction projects at the airport and waterway terminals.
  • Represented public owner on construction and design procurement and construction manager/general contractor contracting issues related to large bridge project in Portland, Oregon.
  • Represented a regional transit system in all phases of acquisition and disposition of fee and easements interests in 14-mile contiguous right of way corridor through City of Seattle.
  • Represented a Class 1 Railroad in connection with a major bypass project in Washington funded by the State of Washington.
  • Represented King County in connection with rail corridor project involving railbanked trail and disposition of uses within trail corridor for public transportation, utilities, and recreational uses.

Intellectual Property

  • Provide ongoing branding and trademark registration counsel to regional transit client for the rollout of its e-fare program, including copyright registration for images, preliminary branding, and clearance for new express bus route names.
  • Represented regional transit client in a challenge to an apparel company over the use of a nearly identical design to the client’s logo.
  • Represent a global automaker in venture investment and licensing transactions with early stage companies engaged in developing infotainment, navigation, and general mobility solutions.
  • Provide ongoing patent and trademark representation for manufacturer of vehicle interconnection network platform.

Labor and Employment and Employee Benefits

  • Represented regional transit client in an administrative appeal involving relocation benefits, successfully ensuring that our client’s denial of additional claims was upheld.
  • Represented a public transportation provider in a labor arbitration involving a grievance challenging the company’s ability to subcontract new work. The arbitration resulted in a favorable interpretation of the collective bargaining agreement.
  • Represented a nationwide automotive dealership in a complaint alleging Sarbanes-Oxley and Dodd-Frank whistleblower and retaliation claims. All claims were dismissed.
  • Serve as benefits counsel to a global maritime transportation company that has multiple subsidiaries, decentralized benefit plan administration, and both salaried and union employees. Advised the company on correcting errors that occurred during a high turnover period in Human Resources and helped it establish systems and tools necessary to improve overall benefit plan administration, including a comprehensive 401(k) plan restatement, Qualified Domestic Relations Order Manual, and multiple Pension Benefit Election Packages.
  • Represented port in action by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union alleging violations of the Oregon Public Records Law. Successfully obtained dismissal of significant portions of the claims at the trial court.
  • Represented a large industrial shipyard in multiple litigation matters. Successfully secured summary judgment dismissing a plaintiff’s wrongful termination claim based on newly disclosed documents on the eve of trial. Continue to provide guidance on a variety of matters, including the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

Payroll Tax and Self-Employment Tax

  • Counseled on and drafted proposed changes to tax provisions in regional transit client’s enabling statute.
  • Represented regional transit client in the Oregon Tax Court in determining whether taxpayers are subject to client’s payroll tax.
  • Provided review and updates to regional transit client’s self-employment tax ordinance in light of changes to federal tax law.
  • Obtained and defended property tax exemption for regional transit client property in connection with condemnation actions.

Litigation and Appellate

  • Represented King County, Washington over many years in a variety of matters, especially related to its billion-dollar Brightwater wastewater treatment project:
    • Represented the County in a three-month jury trial at which the County was awarded every dollar it sought in damages (over $155 million) against the original tunneling contractor and its sureties.
    • Also subsequently achieved an award for $14.4 million for the County in attorneys’ fees, costs, and expert witness fees.
    • Assisted in planning and administering the project.
    • Guided the creation of the owner-controlled insurance program for the project and supported the County’s response to a major bid protest.
    • Helped the County engage an additional contractor to share the construction work when work on the treatment plant grew beyond the contractor’s bonding capacity.
    • When one of the tunneling contractors fell behind schedule, helped the County analyze the issues in dispute and hire a replacement contractor on a rapid emergency basis and presented the County’s position in a nine-day Dispute Review Board hearing.
  • Served as lead trial and appellate counsel to regional transit client in a lawsuit between client and an investor backing a $3 million letter of credit to secure a manufacturer’s performance in building railcars. On appeal, obtained a favorable decision from the Ninth Circuit.
  • Represented public transit agencies in western Washington that use the ORCA fare card payment system in a dispute with an ORCA system contractor. Resolved the dispute in mediation sessions that lasted several months.
  • Represented automobile manufacturer in numerous lawsuits filed in state courts in the Pacific Northwest, including several matters involving breach of warranty, failure to perform repairs, negligence claims, and one matter involving the propriety of a debt collection. Each of these matters was resolved favorably.
  • Represent international automobile and vehicle manufacturer in state product liability litigation involving a variety of automotive component parts, including air bags, head rests, and seat restraints.


  • Represented operator of seaports to refinance its existing revolving credit facility and its secured note offering. Primarily responsible for issues related to opinion letters, corporate governance matters, and comments on Washington law matters related to the credit facility documents and note facility documents.
  • Represented equipment rental company in its (a) Rule 144A offering of $420 million principal amount of 9.50% Second Priority Senior Secured Notes due 2018 to Jefferies LLC, as initial purchaser and (b) new $325 million secured revolving credit facility with Bank of America, as administrative agent. In connection with these financings, company emerged from proceedings under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code.
  • Represented a company with investments in port and terminal operations in the western United States in connection with its formation of several joint ventures and with respect to its amended and restated revolving credit facility with Bank of America, N.A.
  • Represent large automotive retailer on sales, acquisitions, leases, and corporate transactions in Oregon, Washington, California, and other parts of the United States, and in connection with the amendment and restatement of its $2.6 billion syndicated revolving credit facility.
  • Represented a diversified provider of facilities management and logistics services in its $34 million acquisition of all the stock of a provider of environmental emergency response and remediation services.

Areas Of Concentration

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