Can Bertha be fixed?



Posted on April 29, 2014 at 5:33 PM

Updated Tuesday, Apr 29 at 5:33 PM

Some surprising words Tuesday from the state about Bertha. The transportation secretary says she's skeptical the Highway 99 tunnel will be completed on schedule, and she isn't sure if the tunneling machine can be fixed.

In response to a question about whether Bertha will go back into the ground once pulled out for repairs, Washington Transportation Secretary Lynn Peterson said "Yes, if it is fixable. But, we do not know that yet."

The answer came in an interview on Tuesday, in which Peterson talked about the squabble over hundreds of millions of dollars with the tunnel contractor, Seattle Tunnel Partners.

Peterson confirmed she believes the squabble will end up in court.

WSDOT says Seattle Tunnel Partners, building the new Highway 99 tunnel under downtown Seattle, has asked for taxpayer money.

It includes $125 million for damage that led to Bertha getting stuck in December.

STP says that damage was caused by a WSDOT pipe left buried in the soil.

But, WSDOT says it told STP about it.

"Whether or not the pipe was any cause of the malfunction of the machine, operator error or design flaw in the machine,  that is all on the contractor, per the contract."

The state says the contractors have asked for a total of $190 million in additional costs, most of which the state has rejected.