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The Seattle Times political team explores national, state and local politics.

January 26, 2015 at 6:02 PM

GOP senators’ bill to kill Bertha and tunnel project goes nowhere

UPDATE, 12:22 p.m.: Sen. Curtis King, R-Yakima, Tuesday afternoon announced that the bill to stop the Highway 99 tunnel project and tunnel drill Bertha would not get a hearing in the state Senate.

“While I understand my colleagues’ concerns regarding the Seattle tunnel project, a bill to shut down a project of this size is not realistic,” said King, who chairs the Senate Transportation Committee, in prepared remarks.

“Tunnel workers are six feet from having the access pit completed,” he added. “The parts to repair the boring head are in STP’s possession and ready to go. There is a plan in place, and we need to give STP and DOT the opportunity to complete their plan.

ORIGINAL POST:  Two Republican senators Monday introduced a bill that would shut down the Seattle waterfront tunnel project and examine how to make the Alaskan Way Viaduct a viable alternative.

Proposed by senators from Ferndale and Spokane, the bill would stop spending on the project and tunnel machine Bertha, which stopped in December 2013 after boring only about 1,000 feet of a two-mile long project.

“I have no confidence that the Department of Transportation can bring this project in on time and under budget,” said Sen. Michael Baumgartner, R-Spokane, in prepared remarks.

“Bertha was sold on a faulty promise of controlled cost and engineering predictability,” added Baumgartner, the bill’s chief sponsor of SB 5646. “The project has neither.”

The bill comes as a review board recently determined that the state should pay contractors for dealing with groundwater flows at the launch pit in Sodo where the tunnel machine started its work.

Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, said in prepared remarks that “I have great concern that this project is headed down a path that will lead to massive cost overruns.”

Comments | More in State Legislature | Topics: bertha, doug ericksen, Michael Baumgartner

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