Seattle contractors challenge order to halt Bertha tunneling

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From WSDOT: In this Dec. 14, 2015 photo, crews working for Seattle Tunnel Partners fill in the pit used to access and repair Bertha, the SR 99 tunneling machine. Sand is delivered into the pit through the flexible pipe on the left, and then is spread out and compacted by crews inside the pit.

SEATTLE (AP) — Seattle contractors say the state’s order to suspend digging a new Highway 99 tunnel is unjustified.

Our news partners The Seattle Times report that Seattle Tunnel Partners say they had already responded appropriately to a sinkhole problem when Gov. Jay Inslee ordered them to stop tunneling.

A letter signed by STP manager Chris Dixon says contractors immediately filled the sinkhole with a mixture of concrete and sand after it formed Jan. 12 in the wake of a tunnel-boring machine.

The letter is accompanied by a study that says stopping the machine increases the risk of creating more sinkholes.

It says it’s impossible to know for sure what caused the sinkhole.

State-chosen experts are expected to review the contractors’ findings.

A Washington State Department of Transportation spokeswoman says the documents from STP are still being reviewed.

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