Jay Inslee finally got fed up with the fiasco that is the Highway 99 tunnel project, ordering contractors to suspend drilling until they could figure out what caused a sinkhole to form earlier this week. According to the Washington Department of Transportation (WSDOT), despite efforts to cover the hole, Bertha is sinking. The Seattle Times,
“The governor’s action marks a change in the state’s hands-off approach to construction. The $1.35 billion ‘design-build’ contract places job-site decisions and risk on the builders. However, the state Thursday invoked a contract clause that allows it to suspend work based on a ‘failure to correct conditions unsafe for Project personnel or the general public.’”
The latest halt will likely add to the more than $220 million in extra payments requested by tunnel contractors since mid-2013. Bertha just re-started in late December, after two years of delays due to multiple problems. Perhaps the most embarrassing of these occurred when Bertha initially broke down two years ago after hitting a pipe which WSDOT knew was in the tunnel path because, well, the agency placed it there.
Now the public is in a waiting game again, with the tunnel project’s actually completion date as murky as a water-filled sinkhole.