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April 5, 2013 at 11:57 AM

Lack of ‘arrangements’ keeps giant tunnel machine in the bay

The ship carrying Bertha, the $80 million boring machine for the Highway 99 tunnel, will remain anchored in Elliott Bay, unable to dock as planned at Terminal 46.

A news release from the state Department of Transportation Friday morning doesn’t explain why, except that “arrangements are still being made to unload the ship.”  The parties have had three years to prepare, since the Seattle Tunnel Partners team led by Dragados USA and Tutor-Perini won the $1.4 billion contract for the two-mile tunnel from Sodo to South Lake Union.

The state DOT initially hoped to dock the M/V Fairpartner on Wednesday, then estimated Friday.

Linea Laird, program administrator for state DOT, said in an interview Friday she is hoping to resolve the problem within a few days. “The contractor is working on these arrangements, with labor. It does take some time to sort through the issues,” Laird said.

Unloading is expected to require nine workdays, but the vessel must yield to Port of Seattle container ships, so the task will be spread over two weeks or more.  It is a delicate operation that includes lowering pieces of nearly 900 tons onto flatbed trucks with up to 768 tires, just to travel a quarter mile or so from the waterfront to a pit where the Japanese-built machine will be reassembled this spring. The job requires a coalition of tunnel-machine engineers, skilled truck operators, and longshoremen to work as a team.

Below is the short news release, issued this morning:

Statement by Linea Laird, Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement Program administrator:

The ship carrying the State Route 99 tunnel boring machine, the Jumbo Fairpartner, was scheduled to berth at Terminal 46 this morning to begin unloading. Arrangements are still being made to unload the ship.

The machine will not be unloaded today and will remain on board the ship, anchored in Elliott Bay, until arrangements are in place.

Seattle Tunnel Partners is under contract with WSDOT to complete the SR 99 tunnel by December 2015. This includes building, transporting, operating and maintaining the tunnel boring machine.

Additional information and comments, including the schedule for unloading the ship, will be provided once arrangements are made.

Comments | More in Traffic & Transit | Topics: Highway 99 tunnel


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