Topic: Seattle Tunnel Partners
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November 14, 2013 at 11:00 AM
The Highway 99 tunneling machine “Bertha” is on the move again, after a rest stop to undergo adjustments and receive a new set of cutting teeth.
Dark, wet soil tumbled off the tall conveyor belt and plopped onto the deck of Terminal 46, to be trucked or barged away. The moving dirt was visible Thursday morning from the Alaskan Way Viaduct.
Bertha had stopped beneath South King Street for about two weeks, after advancing 430 feet since opening day July 30. As planned, two dozen sharp, disc-shaped cutting tools (out of nearly 300 on the 57.3-foot-diameter rotary cutter) eroded after they scoured through a concrete wall and grout-infused soil near the Sodo launch pit.
These were replaced by rectangular teeth, suited to the wet, abrasive glacial soil just ahead.
The machine will now creep along the Elliott Bay shoreline for a couple months before what is arguably the most risky part of the 1.7-mile trip — a passage under the viaduct and past Pioneer Square’s brick buildings. The viaduct will close several days, and the buildings are covered with monitoring devices to detect any soil movements to a fraction of an inch.
In related issues, the state Department of Transportation (DOT) says negotiations are continuing in the labor dispute with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, which insists on doing four muck-loading jobs per shift at Terminal 46 — jobs currently allocated to building-trades workers. Two weeks ago, deputy project director Matt Preedy said his goal was to settle the impasse by this week.
Also, the DOT says it’s still working on a legal review and possible solutions, for the failure of contractors to hire enough minority- and female-owned small businesses, such as trucking firms. The Federal Highway Administration’s civil-rights division blasted both Seattle Tunnel Partners and state DOT in a recent investigation, and the feds mentioned they might withhold money for the project if things don’t improve.
KaDeena Yerkan, DOT spokeswoman for the tunnel, said Wednesday that Seattle Tunnel Partners this week solicited a new set of proposals from trucking companies. Those could bring a boost in minority hiring, but Yerkan said details weren’t immediately available.
November 1, 2013 at 4:24 PM
Seattle Tunnel Partners and the state Department of Transportation have failed to make a good-faith effort to meet their hiring goals for small businesses owned by minorities and women, according to a report issued today by the Federal Highway Administration.
With the job roughly one-third complete, the tunnel contractors have paid out only 1 percent of the alloted $91 million share to those small businesses, the 20-page document says.
Contractors imposed unnecessary bonding requirements and red tape on the small businesses seeking to bid, while the state took a hands-off attitude, the investigation found.
The FHWA launched its investigation based on a formal complaint by Elton Mason, owner of Washington State Trucking in Kirkland.
Seattle Tunnel Partners, led by Spain-based Dragados and California-based Tutor-Perini, accepted an 8 percent goal for contracts with small businesses owned by minorities and women. But project manager Chris Dixon of STP, and state DOT administrator Linea Laird both thought that level too high because of the specialized nature of the deep-bore tunnel, the report says.
It will be difficult for the project to make up for lost ground.
Trucking is one of the prime jobs that can be done by businesses owned by women and minorities, but the huge launch pit for tunneling machine Bertha was long ago finished in Sodo, and the north-portal excavation near Seattle Center is mostly done. So that opportunity to level the playing field is lost.
Current plans are to use barges, not trucks to remove the tremendous volumes of soil that the drill will remove beneath downtown, over the remaining 1.6 miles from South King Street to near Mercer Street.
Nonetheless, state transportation Secretary Lynn Peterson promised in a message Friday her agency “is taking this matter very seriously.”
Peterson said she is hiring an independent adviser, and will proposed “future actions” within 30 days.
The feds didn’t issue specific threats or deadlines. But a letter to the state DOT mentions that it could suspend or terminate federal funds, or refuse to approve future grants, unless the problems are fixed.
September 20, 2013 at 5:07 PM
The Associated Press
Boring at Seattle’s $2 billion tunnel project has been delayed again until next week.
Officials with contractor Seattle Tunnel Partners said Friday that the boring machine is going through more tests before it can be restarted. They say some of the early material that the machine was tunneling through apparently had a chance to solidify while the machine had been shut down.
The boring came to a halt in recent weeks as longshoremen were picketing at the site due to a dispute over a handful of waterfront jobs. Gov. Jay Inslee announced Tuesday that the longshoremen had agreed to allow the project to proceed as officials worked toward a larger resolution on that dispute.
Officials had hoped to restart boring work Friday. They are now looking at some point early next week.
September 18, 2013 at 5:18 PM
Despite a halt to the longshore union’s picketing Tuesday, tunnel-boring machine Bertha needs a few days before it can restart.
One might expect drilling to begin immediately, given that Seattle Tunnel Partners (STP) had four weeks of delay to prepare. But it’s not that simple, contractor and state officials say:
- Workers need a couple days to finish adjustments that were under way on large mixing arms that stir the excavated muck, right after it passes through Bertha’s rotary cutting face, said Chris Dixon, project manager for STP. This work was going to happen later anyway, when Bertha stops in a so-called refuge area between Sodo and the Alaskan Way Viaduct this fall. Dixon is now hoping to skip the refuge and keep drilling northward.
- Conveyor parts need to be fixed, where muck will be sometimes lifted from a temporary stockpile on Terminal 46, and moved to barges, said KaDeena Yerkan, spokeswoman for the state Department of Transportation (DOT). The work couldn’t be done earlier without crossing an International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) picket line, so it’s happening this week, she said.
- Workers have to be rescheduled from other jobs onsite, said Yerkan.
Complicating matters, STP began the week hunkering down for another two or three weeks delay, and sent some workers to build an alternate muck-handling bin that would let trucks remove soil via Alaskan Way South, bypassing the docks. The green light to drill caught managers by surprise, Dixon said Tuesday. “The whole landscape changed,” he said. “We’re very happy with the news. It’s very positive. It’s uplifting the spirits of the people on the project.”
Rumors and tips abound regarding the supposed real reason Bertha is idle — anything from electrical flaws, to an inability to chew through concrete grout in the soil. All of these, the project officials vehemently deny. But if Bertha does have mechanical flaws, those will be manifested, before too long.
When restart is imminent, Yerkan said, the DOT will announce it online, through e-mail, or through Bertha’s Twitter feed.
About The Today File
The Today File is a general news blog featuring real-time coverage of Seattle and the Northwest. It is reported by the news staff of The Seattle Times and edited by Assistant Metro Editor Nick Provenza.
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