When the Highway 99 project was in its initial planning stages, the state failed to inform Seattle Tunnel Partners — the project’s contractor — about the location of a steel pipe it put in place and which Bertha struck in December 2013. As Shift reported, according to Bertha’s builders, that critical mistake caused the giant drill to break down and delayed the project for more than two years.
Well, according to recent reports, we now know a bit more about the consequences of the Washington State Department of Transportation’s (WSDOT) incompetence.
Thanks to Bertha’s two-year shut down, the Highway 99 tunnel will now be delayed until 2019, well beyond its original target opening of late 2015. The delay will also burden taxpayers with at least an additional $223 million in cost overruns.
The $223 million is a rosy estimate. You see, the estimate is based on the assumption that Seattle Tunnel Partners fails to win claims against the state that exceed $200 million. The dispute is currently in court.
Considering that the delay was caused by government incompetence, it would come as no surprise for Seattle Tunnel Partners to win its case and, subsequently, for the cost overruns to increase.
Roger Millar, the acting WSDOT director, admitted that he “doesn’t know yet where $223 million would come from” but that state leaders “have time to prepare.” As the Seattle Times points out, the costs “almost certainly would be paid by the state’s drivers in gas taxes, more transportation-fund debt, or by tolls and fees.”
Millar also confirmed he will “ask for $60 million in the next two-year transportation budget, to keep enough cash flowing.”
Jay Inslee and his office took the coward’s way out, and refused to comment on the delay or cost overruns. Rather, the green governor is cowering behind his transportation bureaucrats, referring all question to WSDOT officials.
Perhaps at some point the mainstream media will get Inslee to answer some important questions that he is now avoiding. For instance, when did he learn about this latest delay? And, how does he propose paying for this latest WSDOT debacle?
The truth is that Inslee has presided over a culture of incompetence at WSDOT — a culture that he has done nothing to change, and which he has encouraged by hiring unqualified leaders.
Instead of hiding out, and avoiding questions, it’s time Inslee accept responsibility for the incompetence his administration has exhibited at the expense of taxpayers.