In December 2013, Bertha—a tunnel-boring machine—overheated and broke down after only digging 1,019 feet of the 9,270 feet tunnel from Sodo to South Lake Union for the Highway 99 project. Last week, Seattle Tunnel Partners (STP) gave the state government a new schedule for the project, signaling when Bertha might restart. The catch is no one is willing to share that information with the public. The Seattle Times,
“The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) says it needs time to review the documents and intends to release the information sometime this week.
“Gov. Jay Inslee was briefed about restart timetables Friday morning, during a broader update about statewide transportation issues, said spokesman David Postman, who wouldn’t discuss any details.
“Seattle Tunnel Partners declined to comment, in keeping with a contract requirement to get the state’s consent before speaking.”
By way of excuse for why it won’t divulge information to the public, WSDOT said it reports to “the taxpayers and believe the people of Washington would want us to be careful and thorough in our analysis of any information we receive from the contractor.” More likely, officials fear public backlash and are waiting for the most opportune time to share what has become complicated mess of a project. They clearly need time to get their political spin coordinated with Inslee and other Democrats.
While the public remains in the dark as to when Bertha will re-start and how long the Highway 99 project will take, we do know Inslee remains committed to the project. According to his spokesperson, Inslee still believes the tunnel is the “best and clear alternative at this point.” Of course, given all the secrecy, it is not such a “clear” alternative to the public.