Seattle Tunnel Partners, the contractor that's building the downtown deep-bore tunnel and trying to excavate the broken machine announced today that the process to start fixing the machine will take at least a month more than anticipated, and revealed that a lawsuit over the costly delays remains a possibility. 

(The fix involves constructing a pit, lined by concrete pilings, into which disabled tunnel-boring machine "Bertha" will dig, allowing workers to excavate the machine's broken cutterhead).STP said today that they have to install an extra ring of concrete pilings intersecting with the ring of pilings that's already under construction.

The new pilings will require STP to chisel notches into the original pilings, into which the new pilings will fit. That's been tough in some cases, STP tunnel project manager Chris Dixon said today, because the concrete has hardened, requiring a special chiseling machine "to drill into the primary piles." 

Like so (drawing via WSDOT spokeswoman Laura Newborn): 

Dixon said today that the company remains "very, very confident of resuming tunneling in March," because the company built enough "float" into its schedule to allow it to run a month or two late. However, the three months the company built in to its schedule for testing are now two months or less.

"You don't like to see the float encroached on. That hasn't changed. It's just that we've reduced the amount of float in the schedule, but we still have remaining float for anything that comes up." 

"The original plan was to excavate the cutter head in October—now we’re looking at the latter part of October early November for the tunnel-boring machine to actually brak into the shaft."

Todd Trepanier, WSDOT's deputy project manager for the tunnel, said the state transportation agency "continue[s] to have concerns about the milestones" set for the project, adding, "Our concern is slightly elevated whenever you start using the float in the schedule."

Asked specifically whether he expects the delay, estimated to cost $125 million, to result in a lawsuit for breach of contract by STP, Trepanier said, "That disagreement will be dealt with according to the methods laid out in the contract."

Dixon added, "We're hopeful that it never gets to that stage, and that it gets resolved according to the terms of the contract."  

Seattle Met and PubliCola deliver breaking news and essential updates from around the Northwest. See an example!