A report by KOMO 4 TV is raising more questions about the construction of the new Highway 520 bridge, where the governor has already said she wants an independent review of the safety of the pontoons.
On Monday, KOMO broadcast an interview with a former state inspector expressing concern that the bridge is a "disaster waiting to happen." The inspector remains anonymous — his voice was distorted in the video — but KOMO also obtained an internal audit through a public records request. KOMO summed up the report as "scathing"; it cites problems with the curing of the concrete pontoons and puts forward a half-dozen recommendations for dealing with construction issues.
The state Department of Transportation hasn't been responding to KOMO Problem Solvers reporter Tracy Vedder, but the state and the contractor, Kiewit-General, are reportedly addressing construction issues. (Update on Wednesday: The state Department of Transportation said it had emailed an immediate response but KOMO apparently didn't receive it. It also points out an earlier interview with the secretary of transportation, Paula Hammond, that I missed and says it has been fully responsive. Details here.) The state has said it sees no reason to reject any of the pontoons.
Vedder said in an email that another report related to the bridge was being prepared for broadcast this evening (Tuesday).
Washington has a long history of major bridge failures, including the Galloping Gertie collapse of 1940 (the first Tacoma Narrows bridge), the 1979 sinking of the Hood Canal Floating Bridge and the 1990 breakup of the I-90 floating bridge. That doesn't mean we are headed to anything similar at Evergreen Point, but it underlines the value of asking questions early. Assuming the questions are resolved, this much is also a plus: The state is building a new bridge before waiting for another disaster.
Why you should be worried about bridge construction
Here's a video from the 1940 bridge collapse in Tacoma. It's been seen by 6 million people so far, hopefully including everyone working on bridge projects in Washington state.
Vulcan in pursuit of Yesler Terrace project
Paul Allen's name might not bring to mind images of public housing, but the Seattle billionaire's Vulcan real-estate firm is a finalist for a huge project redeveloping the lower-income housing area near downtown — and adding a mix of uses that includes upscale housing units.
In a press release, Seattle Housing Authority's executive director, Andrew Lofton, said that Vulcan, partnered with Capitol Hill Housing, is one of two finalists for the huge project, which will include up to 5,000 housing units, retail and nearly a million square feet of office space. The other team is made up of Forest City, a national real estate firm that started in Cleveland, and Jonathan Rose Companies, which also has offices across the country.
The long process for redeveloping Yesler Terrace has been controversial from the start. (See recent articles here and here for examples.) Expect nothing less with the naming of the finalists. Lofton's statement said the finalists will be interviewed next month. Wouldn't it be nice — not to mention helpful in the soothing of the controversies — if finalists came in talking about how they would overachieve in serving the genuinely needy?
Counting by hand to 55,000
The Washington Secretary of State's office is gearing up for a recount or two in Clark County, where two legislative races remain ultra-close. The office has set a Nov. 29 date for a legally required review of ballot security, accountability and ballot duplication procedures in the tight races.
The review sets the stage for a manual recount of the ballots in the two races, one of which looks critical to control of the state Senate. As of a mid-afternoon count update, Republican incumbent Don Benton is just 105 votes ahead of Democratic challenger Tim Probst out of 54,585 votes.
That's well within the requirements for a hand recount, as opposed to a simple machine recount that essentially involves just running the ballots through a machine again. In a hand rcecount, said Secretary of State spokesman David Ammons, people "literally go through and check every ballot ... and make the voter's intention is clear." Ammons said the the vote proportions in the Benton-Probst race, as well as a House race in which Democrat Monica Stonier is edging Republican Julie Olson, have stayed very stable in recent counts.
Ammons also said of hand and computer recounts, "Typically, you don't see a dramatic turnaround from either type." But, of course, there was the 2004 election recount that made Chris Gregoire governor.
Microsoft for a better world
A story began to make the rounds on Monday, including on GeekWire, about Microsoft using energy from a Cheyenne, Wyoming, sewage treatment plant to power a new data center. This morning the Eastside's Patch online publications had their version of the story with the headline, "From Doo to Data: Microsoft to Build Plant Powered by Human Waste." According to Patch, the energy "for the first-ever zero carbon data center" will come from bio-gas generated at the treatment plant.
Does this mean that Wyoming is leapfrogging Seattle and Washington state in combatting global warming? No. It was a Seattle company with the idea.
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