If Bertha busts the budget, who pays?

Is it right for Seattle to foist Bertha overruns onto state taxpayers, when it was Seattle voters who insisted on a risky project with a Tiffany price tag?
Crews drill to look for an obstruction in front of the tunnel-boring machine on Seattle's waterfront.

Crews drill to look for an obstruction in front of the tunnel-boring machine on Seattle's waterfront. Washington State Department of Transportation

Maybe Seattle should be on the hook for Bertha overruns.

Big revelations about Bertha and the 520 Bridge costs make you wonder if Seattle and the state of Washington have bitten off more than they can chew, boondoggle-wise.

Bertha has literally ground to a halt while digging the deep-bore tunnel. And, as the new legislative session begins, the folks building the 520 Bridge have given us some new numbers about the size and scale of their cost overruns to date, with more anticipated.

If anything, the two troubled projects are giving legislators cause for pause as they contemplate a new state transportation package.

In Bertha's case, since we're at the beginning of what could be a quagmire, we don't yet have a full handle on the cost of delays, damage and other issues related to the project. The Washington State Department of Transportation has been reluctant to be pinned down, but the project has a $40 million fund for "running into stuff," according to state Secretary of Transportation Lynn Peterson. And running into stuff it has done.

On the other side of town, a year after we learned about the 520 pontoon design and cracking fiasco, we're finally getting the bill for the faulty pontoons that need to be repaired or rebuilt: $208 million. The project's contingency fund is essentially blown, WSDOT revealed last week. They are requesting another $170 million to cover additional expected overruns and future costs over and above what was originally planned. The $2.72 billion project will now cost $2.89 billion.

While the focus has been on the pontoons, WSDOT documents reveal that there are over $134 million in other 520-related cost overruns, changes and delays in the offing that we haven't been hearing about, a big chunk of that on the Eastside.

One hundred million here, 200 million there, and pretty soon you're talking real money.

WSDOT assures us that the $170 million now needed to complete half the 520 job (the funded eastern half— there's still the connection to I-5 to figure out) can come out of other state projects and bonds sold against expected toll revenues. In other words, no tax increases. Is it real money if it's not a tax increase?

Of course it is. Taxpayers and toll payers will be paying to borrow that money, and citizens counting on other projects might find their work delayed or downsized. Just because the state can put overruns on its credit card doesn't mean the money is imaginary.

Still, you wonder if anyone really cares. We expect mega-projects to go over budget. We complain loudly and say "I told you so," but these monsters lumber along and the debt piles up. The long time-frames ensure anger will cool down, lawsuits and negotiations will determine who pays the final bills, and people will enjoy the benefits of the new projects, eventually. The pols who pushed them are long gone by the time the piper is paid. We're expected to give a big, worldly shrug.

Mike McGinn made an issue of overruns and was overruled by the political leadership and Seattle voters, who insisted Bertha go ahead. Since it's reasonable to speculate that Bertha's final bill might be higher than anticipated, the former mayor's concerns about who's on the hook have come to the surface like the bits of steel pipe in Bertha's path.

It's a state project, Seattle argues, so the state should pay the entire tab. Pro-tunnel legislators have argued that even though there's an overrun provision in the Bertha bill that says Seattle pays, it's not legally enforceable. Too vague, they say.

But surely the intent is clear. Votes to approve the tunnel bill were gathered on the guarantee that Seattle would pay.

New mayor and former state Sen. Ed Murray says not to worry about paying any overrun. But, when Seattle could have selected less expensive options, it came up with a risky plan with a Tiffany price tag ($2 billion for the tunnel and another $1 billion for taking down the Alaskan Way Viaduct and related work). Seattle insisted on a project that was more than the state wanted to spend. We could have had a surface project, a new viaduct, a retro-fitted viaduct or a cut-and-cover tunnel. All were problematic, but all were likely cheaper and less risk-prone.


Like what you just read? Support high quality local journalism. Become a member of Crosscut today!

Comments:

Posted Mon, Jan 13, 5:19 a.m. Inappropriate

I would still like an answer to the question, how much does it cost, every day that Bertha is stuck? What are the costs of drilling versus being idle? What are the impacts on other contracts for the delays should they continue to be extended?

Cameron

Posted Mon, Jan 13, 6:02 p.m. Inappropriate

I would agree with Cameron. We need an answer to the daily cost of Bertha's inability to drill. This is just the first delay, and quite intensive, just a few weeks into the start of this massive project.

We cannot afford unknowns.

Posted Mon, Jan 13, 7:06 a.m. Inappropriate


Pro-tunnel legislators have argued that even though there's an overrun provision in the Bertha bill that says Seattle pays, it's not legally enforceable. Too vague, they say.

There is a statute that caps how much the state has to pay on the SR-99 AWV replacement tunnel project, and several related roads projects. Any costs above that $2.8 BLN WSDOT racks up can be covered by LID assessments (or bond sale revenue financed via LID assessments). It's perfectly legal.

The spending WSDOT is doing in and around SR-99 in Seattle includes, but is not limited to, the tunneling project. Other related projects WSDOT is doing include the Spokane Street Viaduct widening, SR 519 Phase 2, the S. Holgate to King Street work, Mercer West, demolition of the exiting viaduct, and rebuilding the surface Alaskan Way. Most of those are well underway.

The state legislature in 2009 came up with a very interesting payment scheme, and set it into a statute. WSDOT has full authority to spend however much it wants on all 11 (or so) of those projects, but all amounts over $2.8 billion that the state racks up are to be paid by Seattle property owners whose properties increase in value due to the work. Those property owners would be identified later.

This is a unique statute (technically it was an amendment sponsored by Judy Clibborn to ESSB 5768, at the behest of Frank Chopp). Months after all the hearings on ESSB 5768, Clibborn's amendment with its cost-shifting provisions was introduced (on April 22, 2009):

http://www.apps.leg.wa.gov/billinfo/summary.aspx?bill=5768&year;=2009

Here is that law, as enacted; ESSB 5768 is codified as RCW 47.01.402(6)(b):

( http://www.apps.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?cite=47.01.402 ).

The way that state law is set up to operate is that now all of WSDOT’s expenses over the $2.8 billion cap could be covered via annual LID assessments on an as-yet undefined set of Seattle property owners. That's the kind of financing plan referenced in the Clibborn amendment. Those LID assessments would go out tacked onto the property tax bills, twice a year.

Given that WSDOT’s costs are going to be incurred in connection with an expanding set of projects (the tunnel, the work in SLU near Mercer St. and Aurora, the work in SODO around Alaskan Way, removal of the viaduct, etc.) there is a huge potential for contract overruns, mitigation costs, and damages to buildings and infrastructure. That’s much more true now than before, as the boring machine is stuck and two years ago WSDOT handed out expensive “sweeteners” to contract bidders that reduced further the amount available under the spending cap available for the rest of the work.

A local government with LID-forming authority could form a LID for the purposes of paying the amounts over the cap. No vote of the people would be required, and no change in state law would need to be made. The Port of Seattle (for example) could use its existing statutory authority (RCW 53.08.050) to form a new LID and begin the assessments as soon as WSDOT says it’ll need additional money beyond the $2.8 billion cap. Those assessments would start going out to hundreds of property owners, the ones that Lloyd Hara deems have properties that have increased assessed values due to the projects.

This isn't brain surgery. The democrats who set it up don't want the public to know about it. That is why they say it is not legally enforceable, even though the Port could begin enforcing it any time WSDOT says it will spend over the cap.

crossrip

Posted Mon, Jan 13, 7:17 a.m. Inappropriate

The voters never had an honest choice about the waterfront. McGinn, the malfunctioning a-hole, and the corrupt, "progressive," developer-toady city council, never gave the voters a chance to select what the majority wanted: a rebuilt viaduct.

NotFan

Posted Mon, Jan 13, 10:45 a.m. Inappropriate

Hah. The AWV has been derilect for decades and was poorly engineered from the start. Any elevated replacement is considered an engineering albatross. The Lower Belltown exits/entrances and overhead are monstrous. The exit/entrance ramps to 1st Ave add too much traffic to that main street. Voter attention is diverted from these more important concerns with idiotic 'wordsy' articles about who pays for incompetence. The 'stacked' Cut-Cover Tunnel/Seawall in the FEIS was finished in 2006 but not presented to the public nor reviewed during the March 2007 referendum, IOW, that vote was rigged. Many cut-cover tunnels were studied before and after that vote, all more disruptive than the ideal 'stacked' cut-cover in the FEIS.
Crosscut censors the truth.

Wells

Posted Mon, Jan 13, 1:03 p.m. Inappropriate

http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2003616916_viaductelex14m.html

voters rejected both the tunnel and the viaduct. what's the basis for saying a majority of residents wanted a rebuilt viaduct?

oldgaloot

Posted Mon, Jan 13, 1:38 p.m. Inappropriate

The existing viaduct could've been repaired for $800 million, but Seattle's "progressives" can't ever repair anything.

NotFan

Posted Mon, Jan 13, 4:28 p.m. Inappropriate

The AWV was derelict, Nautfan.
Fixing the piece of crap at any price wasn't possible.
If you aren't too chicken to take on real corruption,
Wsdot conservatives & sdot 20-something know-it-all nutcases,
are NOT to be trusted with engineering transportation.
They wint tuh callidge an gots piece a paper says so.

Wells

Posted Tue, Jan 14, 10:32 a.m. Inappropriate

$800 million vs. $4 billion (and climbing) and fewer vehicles moving per day.

WSDOT WASTE.

Posted Mon, Jan 13, 7:44 a.m. Inappropriate

I am really struggling to understand why Seattle should be on the hook for incompetence at WSDOT. Even if there was a legally enforceable provision that Seattle pay cost overruns for the tunnel, couldn't the city reasonably claim the overruns where a result of gross negligence by the State.

WSDW

Posted Mon, Jan 13, 6:06 p.m. Inappropriate

The litigation will be more than the cost of the overruns, and if WSDOT could be sued by taxpayers, they'd lose the largest.

This department needs to be evaluated, seriously.

Posted Mon, Jan 13, 7:50 a.m. Inappropriate

Sadly, this is the wrong type of article. It is basically just trying to stir the pot.

Like it or not State Route 99 is just that, a STATE ROUTE. This road is a major State Highway that just happens to go through the city of Seattle, just like Highway 2 goes through Wenatchee. It was built and maintained by the WSDOT not SDOT.

Sure, the city voted on their preferred type of replacement, but the choice HAD to be approved by the State of Washington. The state could have always said NO, we will only pay for an elevated or surface street option. But it didn't. So we are all in this boat together.

I do believe people are panicking a little too early. Does this delay cost money? Certainly, but there was also contingency money built into this project and the contractor is on the hook for this. Seattle Tunnel Partners is working to solve the problem and they have a plan to get Bertha moving again. I personally expect Bertha to complete the project on budget although the schedule may be delayed.

acbytesla

Posted Mon, Jan 13, 6:08 p.m. Inappropriate

Hey! Pollyanna is back!

Polly, no one is panicking. We're just bitching that we were right all along - this project is too costly, and that WSDOT is incapeable of managing it.

Posted Mon, Jan 13, 10:23 p.m. Inappropriate

Better Pollyanna than Chicken Little!!

This project was decided after taking 10 years to do so! My biggest problem with these projects are not the construction cost over-runs and delays but the government infighting, administration and the legal costs.

We take 10, 20, 30 years of moronic wrangling trying to get input from every community member with too much time on their hands instead of getting the job done.

acbytesla

Posted Tue, Jan 14, 10:05 a.m. Inappropriate

My biggest problems with projects like this are:

- WSDOT bad management and bad engineering wastes millions and millions of dollars, yet there is nobody getting fired.

- Gregoire crammed this design down our throats. This design is pathetic, and moves far less traffic as does the Viaduct. Moving less traffic around a downtown area means more traffic comes into downtown (unhappily), which will stifle it, and harm business. The Seattle region will lose commerce because of this tunnel.

- To spend upwards of $4 billion for approximately 2 miles of road is insanity and makes no sense. It's not even fully established who will end up paying this bill.

- The bore drilling machine has barely gotten started and already might be damaged beyond repair, by your statement made this week.

- Waiting is always the Seattle/Washington way, but this decision was made with force and made in a way that simply means voters now distrust elected leaders and WADOT appointed people even more.

- Trust? Now below sea level.

Posted Tue, Jan 14, 10:22 a.m. Inappropriate

First off, there is no reason to believe the problem is with WSDOT, even though you would like it to be. Second, the cost is 3 billion, not 4 and this pales in comparison to how much it costs NYC to bore under its city.

Any time you have to complete a project like this in the middle of a dense city, the cost of the project skyrockets. That's just the way it is.

Could there have been a cheaper method to replace the Viaduct? I'm sure of it. I do believe however that the city will be better off doing this and nobody will question whether the cost was worth it in 5 years.

acbytesla

Posted Tue, Jan 14, 10:28 a.m. Inappropriate

There is ample evidence known as extreme over budget mistakes caused solely by WSDOT.

You love this project. I would love an affordable project that moves more vehicles efficiently. How is it that you like the hugely expensive one so much, one suspects you earn your living supporting it.

I would love the seawall to be rebuilt, but I do not want a new, larger park down there. I like the businesses along the waterfront, we do not need one more park where crime, vagrants, drugs and alcohol are on display 24/7. Commercial work that earns people an actual living is being replaced for what? More expensive condos and restaurants and so much crime that no one dares walk at night let alone daylight?

Affordability in transportation is possible, except somehow, in this State of Washington.

Posted Tue, Jan 14, 11:38 a.m. Inappropriate

Not on this project. Nothing you can point to.

And I don't love this project. I don't hate it either. Frankly, I just wanted the viaduct replaced before another big earthquake caused a large loss of life like what happened in San Fran a few years back.

The one thing that keeps getting worse about these types of projects are the administration, political and court delays that go on forever because of people who don't get their way. The process for Sound Transit to do anything takes ten years. 80 percent of the subway system in New York was built in 5 years and most of it was done mostly by hand! There is no excuse for the amount of ridiculous planning and endless community meetings.

I hated McGinn, because he wanted to go back to square one after everything was decided. My attitude is get it done or get out of the way.

acbytesla

Posted Mon, Jan 13, 9:04 a.m. Inappropriate

Face it, this is not first and foremost a transportation project -- it is a "waterfront beautification" project and a sop to developers so they can make more money.

From a transportation perspective the tunnel REDUCES rather than increases throughput, efficiency and safety; it pushes more traffic onto and INCREASES congestion on downtown streets and I-5; and as a result it is WORSE for the environment with more vehicles stalled in traffic and spewing increased amounts of greenhouse gases and pollution.

Opposing it is the one thing McGinn kind of got right initially, but as NotFan noted accurately, his opposition was not because he wanted a more sensible and more cost-effective traffic solution like rebuilding the viaduct. Instead it was centered around his anti-car agenda of squeezing all traffic onto surface streets to further increase congestion and, as a true political strumpet, he John Kerry-like was against it, then for it as he pandered to whatever he thought would most help himself rather than the city.

Seattle taxpayers, thanks to the city's "progressive" leadership that they voted into office, should indeed be on the hook for any and all cost overruns on this beautification and development facilitation fiasco.

Posted Mon, Jan 13, 6:13 p.m. Inappropriate

Downtown Seattle will be ruined by this mess unless they quickly decide to abort, and build a new viaduct.

Commerce that moves on the viaduct and Hwy 99 now will simply relocate south or north of the viaduct, depending on where most of their driving has to work. That's not cheap to do, and they most certainly will hold this against everyone holding office today, yesterday and tomorrow.

Especially at the State level. WADOT staff and appointed heads are pathetic.

Posted Tue, Jan 14, 1:17 a.m. Inappropriate

Why are you convinced of this? We completed the Second Avenue Transit tunnel. We also completed two tunnels from Westlake up to Capitol Hill and then on to Husky Stadium.

Actual engineers and geologists have been working on this project for a decade. The entire tunneling industry fully expects the present problem to be worked out and for the project to be completed without the disaster you are predicting.

What is your expertise? Do you have a PhD in Geology or twenty years in civil engineering?

acbytesla

Posted Tue, Jan 14, 10:09 a.m. Inappropriate

Build a tunnel that moves MORE traffic than the viaduct, and provides exits into downtown and entrances from downtown, at an efficient price, and have this project be properly and well managed by WSDOT and I will be happy.

Until then, your so-called "experts" have botched this job.

Posted Tue, Jan 14, 5:05 a.m. Inappropriate

They are tunneling right now under Bejing, NYC, London, Mexico City, LA, San Francisco, Moscow, Madrid, Toronto, Cleveland, Miami, Kuala Lumpur, Istanbul Melbourne, Copenhagen and countless other cities throughout the world. Do you really think that somehow in Seattle it will somehow become a disaster? Seriously?

acbytesla

Posted Tue, Jan 14, 10:12 a.m. Inappropriate

Obviously I do believe that Seattle's tunnel will be a disaster. No one builds the most expensive new road and moves far fewer vehicles - except the moronic State of Washington who chose this mess.

The cost of this failure is already a financial disaster. There is no greater failure than a financial disaster caused by poor design, bad management and failure to perform intelligently. Leadership has failed.

The blade has failed because of that poor leadership. The money ... gone in a poof of stupid bureaucratic decisions with zero accountability. *poof*

Seattle once could do anything at all. No longer. Idiots are in control.

Posted Tue, Jan 14, 2:56 p.m. Inappropriate

arthurking you are dead on correct. I met an engineer who worked on the studies and they said the fix needed is to repair the seawall and repair the viaduct. PERIOD. All doable.

Instead we get the chunnel and a vanity project on the waterfront that happens to include 8-10 lanes of roadway - how's that for making the waterfront attractive to anyone but those wealthy folks sitting in their highrise view condos.

Kill the chunnel. Fix the seawall. Repair the viaduct. Finis. Put the moeny into something important like dealing with the roads and bridges repair backlog and stop feeding the megaproject beast.

Posted Fri, Jan 17, 9:31 a.m. Inappropriate

Actually a relative who works for WSDOT says it will be 12 lanes of traffic on the waterfront. I don't know if that's a final figure, but it's at least possible.

And as for the chunnel, I recently learned the reason for it going to SLU, which perplexed me, is that now they're going to route truck traffic over Westlake and through Fremont to get it to Ballard. That's going to be another mess, joining the mess there will be downtown as tunnel avoiders hit the streets where once we could motor past in peace.

mspat

Posted Mon, Jan 13, 10:03 a.m. Inappropriate

As I recall, Seattle fought for a 4-lane tunnel because it would force drivers to adopt bicycles and transit. The fallacy in that position is that people don't take Highway 99 to get around in Seattle, they take it to avoid getting around in Seattle. Someone driving from Vancouver to Vancouver cannot simply abandon his car in Ballard or Georgetown, hop on a bus and acquire a new car when he reaches the other side of town.


It's still not too late to abandon the tunnel, retrofit the viaduct, and just wait 40 or 50 years until a practical solution can be found.

dbreneman

Posted Tue, Jan 14, 8:31 a.m. Inappropriate

Exactly why the tunnel doesn't have exits in the city, which allows the traffic going through the city to not encounter any exits/merges, while those going to the city - go to the city. Via the South (1st, 4th, 6th Ave S) or North end (Denny / Mercer).

I think the real point of your post is the last sentence. We'd rather "wait" until a "practical" solution (which is hardly ever defined, because if it is, people point out all the impracticalities in it). But really, waiting for something magical to appear is how we got here, isn't it? A generation of voters and leaders waited a generation on the grounds that "something more practical will come along." But really, they were just riding the infrastructure their parents and grandparents built into the ground. Spokane Street Viaduct, Transit System, Alaskan Way Viaduct, 1st Ave S Bridge... anyone see a pattern? We waited for a nice long time, and I don't for a second believe it was in the name of finding a "practical" solution. It's because waiting was free, and as long as I don't have to drive on that failing piece of infrastructure over there, why should I pay for it?

nullbull

Posted Tue, Jan 14, 9:58 a.m. Inappropriate

Exactly why the tunnel isn't as good as the viaduct for moving volumes of traffic, and enhancing the commerce of the city by allowing traffic to enter and exit the city in a functionally smooth way.

The routes you mentioned are completely clogged most of the time.

Posted Tue, Jan 14, 4:47 p.m. Inappropriate

I'm not concerned with the strictly Seattle projects you mention because I don't live in Seattle. But as a Washington taxpayer I am concerned with SR-99. I'm not hoping for a "magical" solution, but too frequently the city of Seattle seems to be. The practical approach is to put off the ultimate solution until a day when the city of Seattle becomes less prone to magical thinking (ie, simply remove a two mile section of SR-99) and more engaged in facilitating, rather than impeding, practical solutions.

dbreneman

Posted Mon, Jan 13, 2:06 p.m. Inappropriate

The author has a dodgy memory. Seattle voted on an ambiguous measure proposing a cut and cover tunnel and a replacement viaduct. When the measure decided nothing, a proposal from the Discovery Institute appeared on the Crosscut website suggesting a deep bore tunnel option. It was then disingenuously debated, critics were dismissed, and 7 months later the City Council voted on the the deep bore tunnel, after declaring that the Seattle Process had run its course.

Posted Mon, Jan 13, 5:21 p.m. Inappropriate

Funny, I don't recall cross-state folks making sure that only Walla Walla folks paid for Highway 12. Or that only Spokanites paid for Highway 395. Or that either of them financed their own public health systems. In fact, the only time I remember people making a big deal out of "our tax dollars" paying for "their projects" was during this tunnel discussion.

So, let's be honest - who pays for whom? We all know this is a question with an answer, right? And the answer is that King County finances the rest of the state in almost everything they do with state funds. Track the expenditures and the receipts by county, and see what you come up with.

The rub for some, I gather, is that Seattle chose a "high risk" project, or one with "lots of goodies" attached to it. Leaving aside the part about goodies as easily answered by reading the scope of the project and the portion covered by state funds, the question about risk is a legitimate one.

My answer, I suppose, is this - we put the most economically productive part of the state in an area with pretty extreme topography, many water features, and a natural choke point at its center. Those decisions have been made, it is what it is. We can re-litigate the decision to have a tunnel, but at this point, the decision is made. If we were to go back, the alternatives proposed faced many of the same issues. Widening I-5 would have involved purchasing and demolishing some of the most expensive property in the state, and even then, may have involved some tunneling around a multi-level, half subterranean, twisting, decades-old structure that is the current I-5. Replacing the viaduct would have increased the height, width, and mass of the current structure, lowering property values, all so we could put another elevated structure on top of fill soil in a seismically risky location.

nullbull

Posted Mon, Jan 13, 8:53 p.m. Inappropriate

The City of Seattle, city taxpayers' representative on this project, has no management responsibilities re the tunnel project. The City didn't write the bid documents, didn't select the contractor, didn't sign the contract with the contractor, doesn't make project management decisions, and doesn't oversee the contractor.

The City is essentially a bystander when it comes to this contract, so I can't grasp why city taxpayers should be on the hook for any project costs. I don't see how the state or the contractor could go beyond the scope of their contract and lasso third parties to solve their money problems.

If the state truly wanted to include the City and/or city taxpayers as potential funders, then the City of Seattle needed to be made a party to the contract. The City and its taxpayers can't be held responsible for the consequences of decisions over which they have absolutely no control.

Posted Tue, Jan 14, 10:15 a.m. Inappropriate

True. While people love to hate McGinn, they need to remember he hated the bore tunnel project.

Posted Tue, Jan 14, 12:25 p.m. Inappropriate

Some day the facts about the origins, manipulations and costs that created this sub-optimized mess will be openly discussed. Already the original choir of boosters, developers, blue-ribbon committees, ex-politicians, urban hobbyists, stakeholders, PR flacks and pay-for-play consultants is subsiding.

Remember the WSDOT eliminated the tunnel plan in late 2008 and selected either a Surface/Transit solution or an elevated replacement. Then a public relations army led by the Discovery Institute got tunnels back on the table at the end of ‘08’ and the rest of the “Bertha” story is currently stuck between Jackson and Main.

Following the money will ultimately show which special interests cashed in and how they applied force to the object to do it. Unfortunately the results will never be feasible, cost-effective or serviceable for regional commuters who will be paying for it.

So for old time sake…no other proposed configuration for the AWV matched the existing viaduct in any transportation related category. The rights of ways already existed. The configuration already handled 110,000 vehicles a day. It already provided a bypass for downtown and off ramps for the core, Ballard and West Seattle. It already met the demands for commercial vehicles. It could incorporate modern seismic protections and other enhancements for noise abatement, bikes, pedestrians and aesthetics. It provided the only effective way to modulate traffic in the core. It acknowledged the fact that rubber-tired, multi-passenger vehicles were/are still the choice of regional commuters. And if there had ever been an honest vote on what tax paying commuters really wanted we would be building it now.

jmrolls

Posted Tue, Jan 14, 1:30 p.m. Inappropriate

Thank you. Very well summarized.

Posted Fri, Jan 17, 9:37 a.m. Inappropriate

Completely agree. Well said.

mspat

Posted Tue, Jan 14, 3:41 p.m. Inappropriate

Yes, thank you. The claim that "Seattle" selected the Tunnel adds spice to the article, but really collapses the process. senI particularly like the inclusion of the Discovery Institute. Faith based construction engineering seems like SUCH a good idea.

RobCrowe

Posted Tue, Jan 14, 9:33 p.m. Inappropriate

If the old viaduct could've been replaced in situ, that would've worked. But going that route would've meant doing without 1+ mile of SR99 for 3 years or more. How many people would've put up with that?

Posted Tue, Jan 14, 11:25 p.m. Inappropriate

At least that’s what the tunnel/park PR machine told us. Of course these are the same people who misrepresented, and continue to misrepresent, what appears to be virtually every aspect of this current project. I think there was very little positive energy spent on solutions for preserving or rebuilding the viaduct, and our bureaucrats and politicians have never shown much concern about what people have to put up with.

The current problem with Bertha might actually be divine payback because the discovery institute kept promoting the tunnel in 2008, when the Almighty really told them to quit fooling around and rebuild the viaduct.

jmrolls

Posted Wed, Jan 15, 7:40 a.m. Inappropriate

How many people would put up with having to re-route for a mile while the viaduct was built new? Far fewer people than who will have to put up with being routed thru downtown Seattle (forever) after the bore tunnel because the bore tunnel severely lacks the traffic capacity of even the old viaduct.

Stop the bore tunnel.

Posted Tue, Jan 14, 12:25 p.m. Inappropriate

It would be foolhardy and a disservice to the taxpayers to hand any more money to WSDOT without enacting a full set of reforms that must be undertaken before WSDOT is allowed to proceed with another round of funding. WSDOT is the largest agency in the state, processes billions of dollars that flow to many business interests that have every reason to shore up WSDOT administrators and its secretary. It is a gravy train free for all, few contracts outright bid upon, most negotiated and renegotiated so they continue for years without any new blood being pumped in, without any question as to whether a contractor should have such an open ended contract. This is how one of the main abusers of this system has managed to work on the Viaduct project for the better part of a decade now, Parsons Brinckerhoff, home of the recently departed Paula Hammond and Ed Murray's new right hand advisor to him about the tunnel project. I'm sure they will have such honest discussions and information to five to Murray.

WSDOT should be audited from top to bottom. Repeatedly flags have been raised with the State Auditor over various WSDOT projects, instead the State Auditor goes after the low hanging fruit in other agencies and entities in Washington and passes on anything WSDOT.

Legislators are the frontline of defense for this situation - where are they, where have they been? Showering money on WSDOT and blissfully letting it dispense its largesse as it pleases to repeat business interests lined up at the public trough. Seriously, this is the state agency that pays contractors now to take jobs, I know, "incentives". it certainly pays contractors to bid on its projects - it calls that practice "an industry standard". Its "enforcement" consists of spineless, mealy mouthed letter at this late date over a pretty non-substantive issue over hiring. Heck, it spent more time getting into a huff over eight operating engineer jobs a few months ago than it does over the DBE matter now. Inconsistency on public interested matters, but stand up protector when it comes to shoveling more money to the contractors.

WSDOT has conspired to blunt public access to information on its suite of mega projects, it spends tens of millions just shaping messages to shape the public's perception about projects and WSDOT, and spends more millions hiring top gun lawyers and consultants to finesse its way around project review requirements, and it even has been legally caught defying the obligations of public disclosure law.

This is the same agency too that is eagerly awaiting the passage of several bills this legislative session that will give it even greater authority to pretty close avoid environmental review of its projects - to "streamline" them - getting to yes, starting projects, leaving what little public oversight and input opportunities are left for the public in the dust.

Ultimately I knew this would happen if there were a problem with the tunnel project. Many of its supporters are now wringing their little hands and acting so indignant that Seattle should have even a shadow of responsibility for the project cast upon it. It was "Happy Days Are Here Again!" all the way in the run up to doing this. Elected officials, the union leaders, Downtown business interests, the Progressive honchos, all attended meetings and events, lording it over everyone that they would have their way. As far as I'm concerned they are the worst hypocrites at this point - the only saving grace they can have in this matter is to get Seattle out of this mess, do a few mea culpas, and cut the City's costs and ties to the project at this point.

Continuing with a crooked partner, WSDOT, giving credence to all their pie in the sky studies, tests, engineering calculations, and the ever so reliable probability, handicapping, about the project is a stupid path forward. But, they knew that and know that. Instead they want to continue with their gambling, betting the public's money that with just another spin of the wheel, another roll of the dice, they'll come up winners.

Frankly that's where we are headed because politicians and agency officials are some of the bigger odds players, some of the most addicted to gambling - mainly because it's not their money!

Posted Wed, Jan 15, 9:02 a.m. Inappropriate

When I took construction law I learned that design-build contracts were only for simple boxes. Admittedly school can be different than life, but the reason given for using design-build only on simple boxes made sense: they were low risk projects. For projects with higher risks, we learned how to create contracts allocating risks to the builders. As some point out, our public entities apparently haven't heard of this strategy. It's time they do.

mspat

Posted Thu, Jan 16, 11:22 a.m. Inappropriate

As a former 'monorail expansion' opponent who saw that hotly contested but voter-approved megaproject come crashing down in the end under the weight of its own extravagance, incompetence, and hubris, I now watch patiently as this latest Seattle megaproject (though paid for and managed by the state) displays its own set of monorail-like symptoms. The monorail project cost taxpayers roughly $180 million, with nothing to show for it. How high will the price tag run for this baby before the state's taxpayers finally come to their senses? Too big to fail? Don't forget WWPPS.

Posted Thu, Jan 16, 11:29 a.m. Inappropriate

Woops--I meant 'WPPSS'!

Posted Thu, Jan 16, 6:44 p.m. Inappropriate

Bertha is stuck. So are taxpayers.

The 2010 Census says there are about 6.7 million people in Washington.
Most news reports indicate that the 2 mile bore tunnel should cost with overruns about $4 billion (a joke, it will be higher).

If this were a mortgage, at 6% for 30-years, here is the monthly payment for every man, woman and child in Washington State:

4,000,000,000 billion at 6% amortized over 30 years = $23,982,021 million per month.

$23,982,021 per month divided by 6.7 million people = $3.58 per person in WA State, per month, including your 97 year old granddad, your 6 month old infant, and everyone else. It sounds almost affordable, until you stop to think about it.

How does this make sense to anyone? Yes, of course, the funding isn't as simple as this, and perhaps the average long-term rates will be lower than 6% .... but think about this anyway.

The perspective and take away is that this 2 miles is probably going to be the MOST EXPENSIVE 2 miles in the world. Ever, including the 30 years into the future.

Why? Clearly we need to recruit a lot more people to this State.

Login or register to add your voice to the conversation.

Join Crosscut now!
Subscribe to our Newsletter

Follow Us »