State orders Bertha tunneling to stop amid safety concerns

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SEATTLE -- The news that Governor Inslee has halted the Bertha tunneling project because of severe safety concerns is generating lots of reaction.

One Olympia lawmaker is even threatening new anti-tunnel legislation.

“This is exactly the kind of reason that everyone thinks the tunnel project is a debacle that should be stopped,” said Sen. Michael Baumgartner (R-Spokane).  “We’re literally going to be wasting billions of dollars on what I think is a vanity project to benefit very few people in downtown Seattle.”

Others who warned of the tunnel risks now say in no uncertain terms that it’s time to pull the plug.

“It’s insane that we’re continuing with this project,” said Seattle activist Elizabeth Campbell, a long-time supporter of an above-ground solution to the aging Viaduct.  Three years ago she even filed a citizen initiative to stop the project.  Now she says it’s time to sue.

“We’re all smart enough to see the costs are spiraling out of control,” Campbell said.   “I mean, come on, we’re not all stupid out here waiting to see, you know, the tunnel materialize.”

But Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, remains committed, despite today’s big setback.

“Mega projects are very, very complex,” he said.

After two years of delays and over $200 million in extra costs, the Governor admits that no one has an alternative if the tunnel project has to be abandoned.

“That would take millions of dollars, and the state has not invested that for Plan B at this time,” Inslee said.