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WSDOT: Bertha pushed forward a couple of feet

SEATTLE — The Washington State Department of Transportation said Bertha, the SR 99 tunneling machine, was pushed forward for about two feet Tuesday.

“Doing so allows crews to build the next concrete ring of the tunnel,” WSDOTY said. “Workers are now testing systems and evaluating the machine to see what maintenance might be needed before they resume tunneling.”

On Monday, WSDOT said Bertha is expected to restart operations this week.

The announcement comes not a moment too soon. Some residents are already questioning whether the project should continue.

“I personally think it’s a colossal waste of money,” says Suzanne Savery.

Bertha tour“It’s kind of disappointing to see progress is not being made on the project,” says Darren Augenstein.

Bertha has only tunneled 1,000 feet since it started last summer, which is about 10 percent of its total path. But according to records obtained by the Seattle Times, WSDOT has already spent half of its budget.  The contractor, Seattle Tunnel Partners, has been paid $774 million as of November.

We asked Laura Newborn, the media relations manager for the Alaskan Way Viaduct, if taxpayers should be concerned. She responded “the tunnel itself is only part of a large tunneling project.”

They say over the past seven weeks, progress has been made on roads and buildings that will ultimately house the control center for the tunnel.

But residents aren’t so sure. They say if there are more problems with Bertha, we may need to consider scrapping the project altogether.

“We’ve moved what, a quarter mile? I guess we got to start thinking about that pretty soon,” says Augenstein. “But it’s going to be a tough call to make. I think we’re already almost all in as it is.”

“I am an accountant and there’s this concept of sunk cost,” says Savery. “What ruins a lot of businesses is they never accept sunk costs, so they continue to throw good money after bad. Whether we’re at that point, I really don’t know.”

7 comments

  • Fred

    I have not been following the stoppage of Bertha closely. Last I knew from about about 10-15 days ago (maybe more), no one knew what caused Bertha to get stuck. Wish this article had mentioned what caused Bertha to get stuck.

  • guest

    typical waste of taxpayer money by government officials who don't give a d###. make them responsible and everything would change!

  • Gregory

    I wish we really knew where the money is going and which politicians are getting secretly rich behind the scenes as in the old Kiingdome scandal and dozens more since then.

  • John Fuller

    This is truly an embarrassment. DOT officials need to be FIRED! We are constantly bombarded by mismanagement on most every level of government, but yet there is absolutely no accountability for state and city employees. Seattle often makes national headlines for the blunders of police, city officials, state ferry system, and Washington State Legislature at the expense of the tax payers.

  • William Lee, PE

    Mr. Savey:
    I've been a Construction Cost Accountant/Estimator. There's a fairly substantial line item in every Construction Contract called, "Mobilization". For some Projects, this item, Payable when work actually begins, is heavily "front-loaded", to cover cost of purchasing or leasing of major equipment such as Tunnel Boring Machines, Compressors, Fans, Cranes, Trucks, Porta-Potty's,
    and initial Bond and Insurance Premiums. Just getting these critters in place and ready to dig, with spoils (dug-out dirt) ready to be hauled away by a fleet of trucks costs quite a pretty penny. Not many folks just take total cost of job and divide it by linear feet to be dug to bid a cost per foot.
    If you're gonna calculate a "Sunk Cost", don't forget to look up the TRO Line item. Time Related Overhead is the other side of the Liquidated Damages coin. Often hundreds of thousands of bucks a day, this is payable if the Contractor is stopped while folks Debate.

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