Update: The PI.com reports that tunnel digging is no longer digging at all due to a labor dispute over eight jobs. The longshore workers' union argues that the jobs belong to them and are blocking the entrance to Pier 46, raising concerns about who will pay for cost overruns and whether the tunnel will be able to catch up to its schedule.
As the chief architect of the state's plan to pay for $2.8 billion of the downtown tunnel, we figured Seattle mayoral candidate Ed Murray would have some thoughts about the recent news that Bertha—the giant machine that's digging the downtown Alaskan Way tunnel, which is the biggest of its kind in the world—had moved only 24 feet in 22 days, thanks in part to fiberglass that has impeded the machine's progress and in part to a labor dispute with the longshore workers' union.
The digging is about two weeks behind schedule. Initially, the plan was that Bertha would drill six feet a day to start, then as much as 35 feet a day.
The tunnel, which, as we've reported, has run into some other construction problems, was Mayor Mike McGinn's white whale; he was a major critic of the project because of potential cost overruns. So far, his worries have been partially borne out; as we reported earlier this year, the state has halved the revenue it expects to receive from tolling, from $400 million to $200 million. (The state says they've accounted for the shortfall in their emergency fund.)
"With any major construction project of this size, there are going to be issues, but this is not a catastrophe." —Mayoral candidate Ed Murray.
So our One Question for Murray, in short, is: Is he worried by the seemingly dramatic delay in the tunnel's progress?
As with any [major] transportation project, there are going to be complications—as there were with the digging of the downtown bus tunnel. ... It is definitely something that I would expect the governor's office and the secretary of transportation to be monitoring. But at this point, it seems to be more of a shaking-out process to get the thing working on that site. You’re starting a new project in a new spot. Every construction procject is different; it takes some time and there’s usually an initial adjustment period to make sure everything works right.
At this point, that is what it appears to be.
Not being an engineer and not being the administrator of the Department of Transportation, I don’t see a concern that would cause massive cost overruns or significant delays at this point. But if there is, the department should be monitoring that so that corrections can be made. But I’m not alarmed yet. As I said, with any major construction project of this size, there are going to be issues, but this is not a catastrophe. ...
I disagreed with him in the beginning on his general opposition to the tunnel, and I don’t think we’re in a crisis, but then again, I’m not an engineer and [the state] could come back to us and say this is a huge problem, and I will have been wrong, but we’re not even close to there yet.