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Board: Washington state should have warned Bertha contractor about underground pipe

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SEATTLE (AP) — A review board says Washington state should have done more to warn the company building a highway tunnel under downtown Seattle about a steel pipe that a tunnel-boring machine hit on Dec. 3, 2013.

That was three days before the giant drill known as Bertha overheated and stalled.

The Seattle Times reports ( ) that the review board did not address whether hitting the pipe caused Bertha’s continuing shutdown.

Board members did find that an important primary document the state provided to contractor Seattle Tunnel Partners was “silent” regarding the steel pipe. The pipe is referenced in secondary documents.

While the decision isn’t binding, it shows the state faces a struggle determining who pays for what issues in the $2 billion tunnel project.

The state Transportation Department’s Highway 99 program administrator, Todd Trepanier, says the state disagrees with the opinion released Friday and will study options to protect taxpayers.

Bertha is still broken, although repairs are under way.

Planned to replace the old Alaskan Way Viaduct, the Highway 99 tunnel is forecast to open in January 2017.


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  • Sara

    Seattle voted this project down years ago. Big money waterfront developers wanted it anyway. They wanted it underground to develop on top so this scheme will cost taxpayers who knew it was a crappy idea. Seattle should rename itself Searichall.

  • Frank D.

    Seattle is going to do thier best to shift these cost over runs to the State. I say heck no! They wanted the tunnel now pay for it cost over runs and all.

  • tired worker

    The whole area is fill dirt. That means they dumped everything they could, boats, trains, concrete, metal rocks, boulders you name it it’s in there. So

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