Morning Fizz: Boring Machine Repairs to "Take Months"; Minimum Wage bill "Doubtful."
Caffeinated News & Gossip featuring bad news for tunnel project, state minimum wage bill, and ride sharing.
1. "This process will take months."
In an email that went out to state legislators last night, WSDOT's tunnel project administrator Todd Trepanier delivered the latest news about the stalled boring machine:
This evening Seattle Tunnel Partners (STP) informed WSDOT and responded to a media inquiry that it is still conferring with its experts to determine how to repair or replace the broken seals surrounding the main bearing of the SR 99 tunneling machine.
Seattle Tunnel Partner has not yet fully determined the cause of the ... problems.
Replacing the seals is a complicated process and STP is working closely with Hitachi Zosen, the tunneling machine’s manufacturer, to determine the best path forward. They are looking at two ways to access the seal area: through the back of the machine or by drilling an access shaft from the surface in front of the machine. Either way, this process will take months. They expect to make a decision by the end of the week, and once they do, we will share that information with the public.
STP has not yet fully determined the cause of the seal problems and to date, they have not shown any evidence that suggests the state or taxpayers will be responsible for cost overruns associated with these repairs. We have requested and expect detailed plans on how the repairs will be made and how STP can recover lost time on the tunneling project.
Since the machine is stopped and repairs need to be made, STP has also informed the City of Seattle that they can proceed with seawall replacement construction near the machine’s current location.
2. City waterfront planners confirmed yesterday that the Alaskan Way Viaduct has settled another half-inch or so as seawall construction has moved forward, and that seawall work is indeed moving forward despite the fact that the deep-bore tunnel boring machine (TBM), "Bertha," remains stalled. (Seawall work was initially expected to proceed alongside tunneling work but is, for obvious reasons, moving forward more quickly.)
"That is a discussion between [tunnel contractor] Seattle Tunnel Partners" and the state Department of Transportation.
However, the city's new waterfront coordinator, Jared Smith, said that there was a "nominal" possibility that the work that has been done to shore up the existing viaduct, which has consisted of strengthening the structure's foundations with "micropilings," may have to be redone when tunnel work proceeds; "we believe," Smith said, that "that is a discussion between [tunnel contractor] Seattle Tunnel Partners" and the state Department of Transportation.
3. Despite all the controversy (see yesterday afternoon's Uber Fizz), city council member Sally Clark says she's fairly confident the council's taxi committee will be able to vote out legislation this Friday that will regulate (currently unregulated) ridesharing services like Lyft and Uber by limiting their numbers (under the current proposal, to 300 citywide) and the number of hours their drivers can operate (to 16 per week).
"If I have a colleague who says on Friday morning, 'Oh my God, I have a fantastic new idea,' then we’d have to put it off," Clark says. "The biggest thing people are wrestling with is the tension between trying to figure out, do you constrain the [ridesharing companies] ... in terms of the total number that would be on the roadway? And will there be a migration of drivers from other systems [like for-hire or taxi companies]?"
Lyft is planning a rally at City Hall at noon on Wednesday; they believe the new regulations will cripple the emerging ridesharing industry.
Fizz is hearing words like "doubtful" about the minimum wage bill's hopes for making today's fiscal committee cutoff.4. With a month to go in the legislative session, today is the last day to pass bills out of fiscal committees —and despite a long session in the house appropriations committee last night (it went until 11:30 pm) where chair Rep. Ross Hunter (D-48, Medina) passed a parade of bills, queuing them up for floor action, the high-profile legislation to raise the minimum wage to $12 by 2017 went nowhere (there was a brief public hearing, but no vote.)
Fizz is hearing words like "doubtful" about the bill's hopes today, though Hunter's committee did add a session for noon today. Also: the bill could eventually turn up as a budget-related bill later in the session (a standard tactic to give bills a second-chance.)
Ultimately, for Democrats, it's a case of picking their battles with the Republican-dominated senate—a battle you'd think the Democrats would want to have when it comes to messaging in the upcoming November elections.