Tags: seattle | tunnel | scrapped

Seattle Tunnel – in the Hole by $2 Billion – Could Be Scrapped

By    |   Wednesday, 28 Jan 2015 08:23 AM

A bill to scrap a $3.1 billion roadway overhaul and expressway tunnel excavation in Seattle has been introduced by two Washington state lawmakers who have branded the project a failure beset by cost overruns, construction mishaps and delays.

The project to replace an aging waterfront freeway in downtown Seattle has been stalled since December 2013, when the world's largest earth-boring machine, nicknamed Bertha, became stuck underground after drilling just one-tenth of a planned tunnel route, reported Reuters.

Roughly $2 billion of the tunnel's allotted budget has already been spent, according to expenditure records.

The bill sponsored by two Republican state senators, Doug Erickson and Michael Baumgartner, says the tunnel project is ill-conceived and likely to be plagued by additional construction problems and massive cost overruns.

"This thing puts every project in the state and every transportation dollar in the state at risk, if the costs balloon. And I believe they will," Baumgartner said on Tuesday.

The measure is likely to be opposed by Gov. Jay Inslee and Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, as well as supporters in the state legislature and Seattle City Council.

In recent months, crews have been digging a pit adjacent to the tunnel site to reach and excavate the crippled boring machine. The 2,000-ton drill will then be lifted to the surface for repairs by a massive specially built crane.

The contractor, Seattle Tunnel Partners, has pushed back the project's completion date by about 20 months to August 2017.

Critics of the project have begun drawing comparisons to Boston's "Big Dig," the country's costliest highway project, which took nearly a decade longer to complete than originally scheduled and was notorious for cost overruns, design flaws, worker fatalities and other problems.

"We are throwing good money out for bad," Baumgartner said. "Do we want a $2 billion dollar mistake to become a $5 or $6 billion mistake? Because, that's what we are looking at," he said.

Under the bill, remaining funds and the state's focus should be turned to repairing the existing freeway, the Alaskan Way Viaduct.

The Washington State Department of Transportation, which is overseeing the project, said it remained committed to the tunnel's excavation, endorsed by the state legislature in 2009.

"Our focus and commitment now, as it was then, is on delivering this critical safety project to the people of Washington," Lynn Peterson, Washington State Secretary of Transportation, said in a statement.

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A bill to scrap a $3.1 billion roadway overhaul and expressway tunnel excavation in Seattle has been introduced by two Washington state lawmakers who have branded the project a failure beset by cost overruns, construction mishaps and delays.
seattle, tunnel, scrapped
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2015-23-28
Wednesday, 28 Jan 2015 08:23 AM
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