Bertha overheated and broke down in December 2013, after digging 1,019 feet of the 9,270 feet of the tube from Sodo to South Lake Union.
Seattle Tunnel Partners (STP) gave the state government a new schedule for Highway 99 on Tuesday, but officials aren’t yet telling the public when tunnel-boring machine Bertha might restart.
The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) says it needs time to review the documents and intends to release the information sometime this week.
Gov. Jay Inslee was briefed about restart timetables Friday morning, during a broader update about statewide transportation issues, said spokesman David Postman, who wouldn’t discuss any details.
Seattle Tunnel Partners declined to comment, in keeping with a contract requirement to get the state’s consent before speaking.
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Bertha overheated and broke down in December 2013, after digging 1,019 feet of the 9,270 feet of the tube from Sodo to South Lake Union. The machine is undergoing repairs along the waterfront, where workers recently fastened new inner and outer seal rings for the bearing assembly. Engineers and technicians from Hitachi, which built the $80 million, 57-foot-4-inch diameter drill in Japan, are participating in the work here.
Nothing in Friday’s briefing changed Inslee’s belief in persevering, said Postman. “The governor does think the tunnel is the best and clear alternative at this point,” he said.
WSDOT tunnel spokeswoman Laura Newborn said the team is reviewing at least 250 pages of charts and documents.
“It is essential that we review the logic of the contractor’s schedule in a thorough manner consistent with our responsibilities in the design-build contract.”
The state gave this explanation Friday for not announcing a few bottom-line facts about the restart plans.
“We report to the taxpayers and believe the people of Washington would want us to be careful and thorough in our analysis of any information we receive from the contractor,” WSDOT officials said in an email.
In the past, Highway 99 administrator Todd Trepanier has discussed dates — with a disclaimer that he couldn’t place confidence in STP’s predictions, until repairs were further along.
WSDOT often waits to release politically sensitive information until it briefs lawmakers, a situation that was complicated by the Legislature’s overtime sessions that didn’t end until Friday.
Newborn explained why the new schedule wasn’t immediately posted online, as was done with two-page updates earlier this year: “As the customer, we requested a much more detailed schedule than the monthly progress schedules we routinely receive.”
WSDOT has paid STP about $1 billion so far for tasks finished on the $1.35 billion contract, such as traffic ramps at the north and south tunnel portals, and four exhaust stacks installed last week at the future Sodo operations base.
In addition, STP is expected to seek more than $300 million for change orders, most of which the state is disputing.
The four-lane, tolled tunnel was supposed to be ready for traffic by the end of this year. The revised date could be November 2017, according to a two-page April schedule update posted by WSDOT.
Bertha has missed restart targets, including STP’s latest goal to dig again next month. After the 4-million-pound cutter drive was lifted to the surface and later dismantled, STP crews this spring discovered that some steel gears and casings were shredded beyond their expectations.