Hold the Phone: WSDOT Chief Says It’s ‘Possible’ the Tunnel Project Will Never Be Completed

Washington State Secretary of Transportation Lynn Peterson today told KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson that considering the fact that the tunnel project will remain at a standstill for almost a another year, and with costs going through the roof, it is possible the 2-mile long waterfront tunnel project will never be finished if Bertha cannot be fixed.

Peterson expressed mild confidence that they could hold Seattle Tunnel Partners accountable for additional costs from this delay, but when asked if she could guarantee 100 percent that the project would be completed, she said, “No. I’m going to be skeptical about it. I think we’re going to remain skeptical until we get more information. We still have incomplete information from our contractor.”

Monson asked under what circumstances Peterson would shut down the project. She said she would consider it in the case that the machine is not actually fixable.

“Is that still a possibility?” Monson asked.

“I’d say it’s a small possibility,” replied Peterson. “But we want to make sure that everybody understands it’s a possibility.”

Peterson disagreed with the host’s contention that it might be cheaper to abandon Bertha and move to another option.

“There would be a lot of rework that would have to go on to actually make whatever plan B, plan C, or plan D, whatever we would come up with to connect and reconnect, and then we would probably have a lot more debate about how to pay for all of that.”

The only part remaining to be completed on this project, Peterson said, is completion of the tunnel itself, and they are holding the contractor responsible for that.

“We have a project, we’ve been told to go move on this project. We have a product we need to deliver, and the final product is that tunnel. Our contract and the product we are paying for is a tunnel.”

WSDOT is challenging the reported $190 million that the contractor is calling for in change orders. Peterson said they’ve rejected most of those change orders.

“What we have is $188 million of proposed change orders by the contractor of which $157 million of that we have already denied. That’s completely different than saying a cost overrun.”

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