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Friday, February 7, 2014

Tunnel Machine Is Seriously Fucked

Posted by on Fri, Feb 7, 2014 at 2:29 PM

A tunneling crew operating Bertha, shortly before the machine stopped working. This photo was taken in November.
  • A tunneling crew operating Bertha, shortly before the machine stopped working. This photo was taken in November.

The problem with Bertha, the lady-named tunnel machine that's digging a $4.2 billion mega-project under downtown Seattle, isn't just that she hit an obstruction that stalled her for two months.

The problem is also that the machine itself is broken, the state says in a new announcement on the Washington State Department of Transportation's website. The seal to the central bearing that turns the cutterhead is busted. There's no timeline for fixing it. There's no estimate for costs or delay. After all, it took them months to even figure out what the problem was. But it's fair to say that with a dwindling overrun budget and three months of downtime already under its belt—the last two months of technical problems, plus a month-long delay last year during a labor dispute—this project (which we were promised by the governor, transportation officials, and the city council would be completed more or less on time and without cost overruns) is now veering into an uncertain future.

Here's part of the state's announcement:

For two months, the contractor on the SR 99 Tunnel Project, Seattle Tunnel Partners (STP), has been working to determine what caused the stoppage of the SR 99 tunneling machine on Dec. 6, 2013. WSDOT and STP have identified two contributing factors: a clogged cutterhead and high-temperature readings indicating there were other factors to explore. ...

After the cutterhead was unclogged, the contractor moved the machine forward an additional 2 feet and installed one of the concrete rings that line the tunnel. On Jan. 28 and 29, higher-than-normal heat sensor readings appeared like they did on Dec. 6, 2013. In the course of investigating the temperature readings, STP discovered damage to the seal system that protects the tunneling machine’s main bearing.

The main bearing is what allows the cutterhead to spin. It is similar to the bearing on the axle of a car, which is protected by a seal that keeps lubrication in and road grime out. The tunneling machine’s main bearing is protected by seals that function the same way - they keep the bearing lubrication in and the tunnel muck out. Investigations have shown that portions of the seal system have been damaged and need to be repaired or replaced. STP and its tunneling experts are working with the machine’s manufacturer to determine the best fix for this issue. They are currently assessing the extent of the damage and the best path forward.

The full statement is here. And, you know, I don't want to sound like subterranean Chicken Little—"The ground is caving in!"—but WSDOT officials have been reticent from the start of these problems in December. They've downplayed the seriousness of a stuck machine. And they've been silent on the real costs (such as how much of the contingency fund this will require and how we will pay for any overruns) or be honest about how far behind schedule they are. Maybe this will all be sorted out quickly at minimal cost! But the state's track record is obfuscation, growing delays, financing shortfalls, and a Pandora's box of logistical problems—so a speedy, affordable fix would be aberration.


Comments (72) RSS

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TomJohnsonJr 1
This is so bad it's just plain rotten. Bleaugh. And no free shipping on returns, either.
Posted by TomJohnsonJr on February 7, 2014 at 2:38 PM · Report this
They are still not addressing a key question: What is causing the high temperatures? Yes, the seals are leaking, but that could be because it's overheating and creating too much internal pressure. Or the broken seals allowed all the lubricant to escape and their resulting friction is causing the heat. If so, what damage has been done to the bearing. I can't imagine you can fix that without taking the machine apart.

Regardless, the broken seal is just one part of the problem and probably a much smaller problem than the one they didn't address.

Posted by drshort on February 7, 2014 at 2:40 PM · Report this
Womyn2me 3
Ah, Boston's Big Dig moved west, as predicted.
Posted by Womyn2me http://http:\\ on February 7, 2014 at 2:44 PM · Report this
rootwinterguard 4
Posted by rootwinterguard on February 7, 2014 at 2:49 PM · Report this
I imagine that the bearings are shot. That is why it overheated. I would be stupid to make the bearings too difficult to replace. Bearings wear out. It should be a planned maintenance. It may be somewhat time consuming, but it shouldn't be a huge issue. Hitachi is a smart company that builds lots of TBMs.
Posted by garumph on February 7, 2014 at 2:49 PM · Report this
Quick, where can the DOT get 10,000 gallons of WD-40?
Posted by Westside forever on February 7, 2014 at 2:52 PM · Report this
wisepunk 7
You know, saying I told you so isn't going to give me any satisfaction when I'm paying for these fucking overruns.
Posted by wisepunk on February 7, 2014 at 2:53 PM · Report this
Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn 8
It would be stupid to make the bearings too difficult to replace. And based on what we've seen of this machine and its maker so far, do we have any reason to suspect them capable of stupidity?

(Yes. We are so fucked.)
Posted by Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn on February 7, 2014 at 2:54 PM · Report this
wisepunk 9
@6 WD-40 is a solvent, it breaks down lubricant.
Posted by wisepunk on February 7, 2014 at 2:55 PM · Report this
The bored tunnel project from the get go has been one big fraudulent mess. Someone should call Chris Gregoire and ask her some hard questions. Or how about calling some of those Seattle Council members who rammed it down Seattle's throat, and ask them some hard questions. Richard Conlin, have anything to say? Or how about you, Greg Nickels? It is time to pull the plug on this mess and go back to the surface street option. Time to cut your losses, Seattle. Stop throwing good money after bad.
Posted by screed on February 7, 2014 at 3:00 PM · Report this
Cascadian 11
Maybe we shouldn't have sprung for the world's largest tunnel boring machine for a project that couldn't pay for itself and didn't make sense even if nothing had gone wrong.

Stop the project, and come up with a comprehensive surface and transit plan to replace it.
Posted by Cascadian on February 7, 2014 at 3:07 PM · Report this
There is no way to replace the main bearings without dismantling the machine -- which you can't do when it's in the tunnel. You probably have to dig a massive pit in front of it to "drive onto" or take off Bertha's previously bright green face and back out the rest of the machine to the original staging pit.
Posted by drshort on February 7, 2014 at 3:09 PM · Report this
Since when do you not want to sound like chicken little about the tunnel, Dom? Whenever I see a tunnel update, I like to click through to the WSDOT links, read what they say, and then come back and read your interpretation. Usually it's something along the lines of "huh, sounds like they hit a setback and they're being suspiciously PR-casual about it" versus "OH GOD THE SKY IS FALLING WE'RE ALL DOOOOOOOOMED." I know you're really excited for the whole thing to fail, but Jesus Christ, you don't have to throw an end of the world party every time someone down there farts. Let's wait and see how this actually plays out before we jump up and down and say I told you so. There's plenty of time.
Posted by beef rallard on February 7, 2014 at 3:13 PM · Report this

Surface street anyone?

Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe http://_ on February 7, 2014 at 3:21 PM · Report this
@12 do you know for a fact that you can't replace the bearing without removing the machine? That would be majorly stupid. While I'm completely unimpressed with the intelligence of STP, Hitachi is a pretty smart company. I would bet that they have planned on needing to replace the bearings at some point. STP may not have figured it into their cost or schedule (I would bet they didn't). Plus you cannot back it out, even if you take the cutting head off. The rest of the first section is still bigger than the hole with the liners in place.
Posted by garumph on February 7, 2014 at 3:24 PM · Report this
They're reporting finding sand in the grease that leaked out of the bearing seal. If this main bearing is like pretty much any other main bearing on the planet, sand in it's lubricating grease means it's scored and probably toast. And contra @5, it doesn't sound like this bearing was designed to be routinely (if ever) replaced.
Posted by gnossos on February 7, 2014 at 3:28 PM · Report this
This project will end up bankrupting both Seattle and the state. Money for public education? Fahgetaboutit! The city and state are literally throwing money into a pit. What a joke. And this is just the start. Let's say they solve all the current issues (in a year, or two, or three...) but they're just at the beginning of the digging. Lots more opportunities for problems to arise.

Meanwhile the clock keeps ticking till the next earthquake. Remember how the guv and council members insisted the city had to move on the tunnel project NOW because of all the precious time being lost and what a catastrophe it would be if the viaduct were to collapse in an earthquake cause Seattle couldn't come to agreement on the tunnel option? Didn't Richard Conlin throw up a slide at a council meeting of a collapsed viaduct in Oakland that killed 42 people? His point was that time for debate was over, the city needs to dig the tunnel now, cause look what might happen if we wait any longer. It was a cheap stunt but ok, now what, city council? Can you afford to wait any longer on replacing the viaduct? I thought time was running out til the next big one.
Posted by screed on February 7, 2014 at 3:30 PM · Report this
@5: per Seattle Times: "The main bearing is a $5 million part that took 10 months for drill-maker Hitachi-Zosen to design and build, according to contractor documents. It would be exceedingly difficult to replace major components, if that’s necessary, near the front of the 330-foot-long machine."

That doesn't say they'd have to dig down and dismantle, but it also means this is far from planned/anticipated.
Posted by gnossos on February 7, 2014 at 3:30 PM · Report this
@18 was really directed at the comment in 15...although same commenter as 5...
Posted by gnossos on February 7, 2014 at 3:34 PM · Report this
There's high pressures down there. If the bearing seal was broken all that dirty water might have got in. Would make it very risky to start digging under the city with a suspect bearing.
Posted by drshort on February 7, 2014 at 3:36 PM · Report this
So the machine overheats because the lube is gone, it can't be repaired in situ, and it can't back up. That about covers everything, doesn't it: done.
Posted by sarah70 on February 7, 2014 at 3:42 PM · Report this
10 months to design and build isn't that long. Since it is already designed and the tooling should still be available, it shouldn't take too long to build another. I don't imagine it will be easy to replace, but I still will be surprised if it is a massive undertaking. As an engineer you need to design for serviceability. If failure of an element means the machine is stuck, never to move again, you design in a way to service it. Bearings are wear items. Even with lubrication you have to figure there will be wear.
Posted by garumph on February 7, 2014 at 3:47 PM · Report this
Joe Szilagyi 23
@22 ten months to build--assuming the tooling is still ready to go. Figure up to a month of test. Figure up to a month to ship it over here (and hope the boat doesn't sink). Another month to install, test, re-test, and test some more, if we're lucky.

Assuming it's a worst-case scenario and they need to start building this epic replacement part tomorrow, guess what? Bertha will move again no earlier than maybe February 1, 2015, as a best case scenario.

If you were a Seattle City Council incumbent that defended this tunnel alongside Richard Conlin, guess what? This albatross is now a 2015 election cycle albatross around your neck.
Posted by Joe Szilagyi on February 7, 2014 at 4:00 PM · Report this
@22: I don't know where you get your faith from, but I think you're being naive on this one. We'll see.

Bertha's what, about 1/9th of the way to the end? If they were anticipating multiple bearing failures, which you seem to be implying, then you'd think replacement would have been built into the design. All indications so far point to bearing replacement being unexpected. Again, time will tell, but I wouldn't bet on this one if I were you.
Posted by gnossos on February 7, 2014 at 4:07 PM · Report this
Sir Vic 25
What about that magic 1000ft mark we heard about recently?…

Hitachi is smart - they designed something to fail right after it was out of warranty (essentially), while still getting their money for it.
Posted by Sir Vic on February 7, 2014 at 4:08 PM · Report this
Tunnel boring machines are designed to move in only one direction - forward. Because of the need to reinforce the bored surface with concrete cladding in order to prevent cave-in or major shifting of the substrate, it's impossible to back the machine out once those are in-place. And these things aren't designed to be dismantled once they're in situ.

Imagine trying to disassemble a 300 foot-long, 57 foot-wide, 7000 ton machine in an underground tunnel nearly 200 feet beneath the surface of the earth and then move all those components 1,000 feet to the only exit without causing even more damage. And even if you COULD accomplish this phenomenal feat, it's not like Hitachi has a bunch of off-the-shelf parts in-stock to replace what's broken; Bertha itself is a one-of-a-kind, custom-built machine, which may share some common parts with other machines of similar size, but again, it's not like there are many of those floating around either.

Even if dismantling Bertha is a viable option, it's going to be a long, messy, delicate, and very, very expensive operation, and will put the entire project months, if not years, behind schedule, at an atronomical cost to taxpayers. And of course, if it can't be disassembled, then the entire project is put in jeopardy, which means not only most of what's been spent to-date has been wasted, but we'll have to spend more years and more billions of dollars figuring out an alternative before the Viaduct collapses in the next "big one".

Any way you look at it, we're well and truly fucked...
Posted by COMTE on February 7, 2014 at 4:13 PM · Report this
Who's gonna pay for this? What? Oh no! Oh no way,man I'm seriously outta here!
Posted by pat L on February 7, 2014 at 5:03 PM · Report this
Maybe the Seahawks could have a giant garage sale and retire the debt! $100 for this Wilson t-shirt anyone?
Posted by pat L on February 7, 2014 at 5:05 PM · Report this
Hah hah
Replacement of the seal is just as labor intensive as replacing the bearing. If you remove the cutter face (which has to be done in either case), it's probably best to replace thd bearing too just in case.
Posted by Jamba on February 7, 2014 at 5:06 PM · Report this
Hah hah
Replacing the seal or replacing the bearing both require removal of the cutter face. Since we don't know if the bearing is fucked (odds are it is), might as well do both while the head is off. We'll have to destroy the underground in pioneer sq. to get to it.
Posted by Jamba on February 7, 2014 at 5:14 PM · Report this
It's funny how the dot doesn't think that the jagged steel shreds of the steel pipe could have damaged the rubber bearing seal. I guess they got to keep up appearances to throw away our tax dollars.
Posted by Jamba on February 7, 2014 at 5:20 PM · Report this
fletc3her 32
The statements from the WSDOT continue to be a bit bizarre.

Posted by fletc3her on February 7, 2014 at 5:23 PM · Report this
Bertha Knight Landes spins in her grave as the machine named for her bankrupts the city she once led.
Posted by Johnston on February 7, 2014 at 5:34 PM · Report this
Strange and costly things happen when one enters
Posted by hola on February 7, 2014 at 5:34 PM · Report this
How could anyone have foreseen running into dirt underground?
Posted by kbatku on February 7, 2014 at 5:48 PM · Report this
Unfortunately for STP and others, they can't hide around, waiting for some special date to go by (like a ballot measure or vote in the legislature) before disclosing terrible news.
Posted by Morganb on February 7, 2014 at 6:04 PM · Report this
It's almost like something related the the cutter head drive unit had been out of alignment and could have caused a poor seal at the bearings before.…

The mammoth Highway 99 tunnel machine will start its journey under Seattle a few weeks late, after workers at the Japanese assembly site found damage to the rotary drive that spins the cutter head.

Instead of a June 3 launch, the boring machine will embark from Sodo to South Lake Union sometime this summer, said Chris Dixon, project manager for Seattle Tunnel Partners.

“It doesn’t affect the overall schedule, as far as completion and turning it over to traffic in December 2015,” Dixon said Wednesday.

Testing was to be finished Dec. 25. As of this week, Hitachi-Zosen crews in Osaka are disassembling and diagnosing the drive system.

The world-record 57½-foot-diameter drill must be reassembled and retested before shipment to Terminal 46 in Seattle.

Workers had heard sounds indicating a problem, which went away, before a completion ceremony Dec. 20, said Dixon.

Shortly after, the team discovered some parts were one-fifth of an inch out of alignment, he said.
Posted by ChefJoe on February 7, 2014 at 6:09 PM · Report this
Too coincidental that hit pipe then got hot immediately.
Dot will say otherwise - just like the pontoon cracks were all their fault.
Posted by Jamba on February 7, 2014 at 6:25 PM · Report this
Really gotta find a job in Denver and get out of this city. Help!
Posted by sanotehu on February 7, 2014 at 7:04 PM · Report this
raindrop 40
@4: I trust our newly elected governor and mayor are seriously considering that option. If they are not, they are not serving the public interest.
Posted by raindrop on February 7, 2014 at 7:36 PM · Report this
Catalina Vel-DuRay 41
Meh. Lots of Seattle civil projects have been "the end of the world" and yet here we are....

Henry Yesler sued the city over the street alignment, and bankrupted it. It had to de-incorporate. We're still here.

The town caught fire and burned to the ground because the (private) water department couldn't supply the hydrants. We're still here.

The dam on the Cedar River watershed destroyed the town on Moncton. We're still here.

The first Gorge Dam had a water hammer. We're still here.

Diablo Dam was in operation five years before it generated any electricity. We're still here.

The brand-new Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapsed into the sound. We're still here.,

The I-90 bridge sank. We're still here.

The Hood Canal bridge sank. We're still here.

Unclench the pearls. Untwist the panties. Enjoy the show. We'll survive.
Posted by Catalina Vel-DuRay on February 7, 2014 at 8:47 PM · Report this
raindrop 42
@41: You're right Catalina. A refreshing dose of history shows how short sighted this cold water throwing (which I just did) can be.

(If only they had not torn down the infamous Denny Hotel during the Denny regrade - but I digress.)
Posted by raindrop on February 7, 2014 at 9:01 PM · Report this
Oh please one way or another this tunnel is getting built and all of us know that.
Posted by Machiavelli was framed on February 7, 2014 at 9:46 PM · Report this

Perhaps. But the cost to do it just went up by a substantial amount.
Posted by COMTE on February 7, 2014 at 10:14 PM · Report this
sperifera 45
Really, who could have predicted that something completely unexpected would pop up mid-project and risk the whole turd of a build? Who could have foreseen that?
Posted by sperifera on February 7, 2014 at 10:15 PM · Report this
WHY am I seeing Homer and the guys from The Simpsons at Springfield Nuclear Power Plant (DANGER! DON'T TOUCH THE RED BUTTON!) here, while Montgomery Burns is laughing his bony, profit-lusting ass off?
Is it just me?
Posted by auntie grizelda on February 7, 2014 at 11:32 PM · Report this
re @46: No, I'm not trying to be a wiseass here. I think I may have watched too many Simpsons episodes.
Posted by auntie grizelda on February 8, 2014 at 12:00 AM · Report this
The news of this has caught me totally off guard.
Posted by MacGruber on February 8, 2014 at 12:13 AM · Report this
Mayor McGuinn was right all along.
Posted by hermanbubbert on February 8, 2014 at 8:12 AM · Report this
chinaski 50
wake me up if Catalina starts panicking.
Posted by chinaski on February 8, 2014 at 8:40 AM · Report this
weejee 51
2006 Stranger Slogs show Vic Grey was downright prescient.
Posted by weejee on February 8, 2014 at 10:27 AM · Report this
What can we do with the tunnel as it is? Skateboard park? I wonder how bands would sound in there? Stuck Tunnel digging machine museum? At least its close to the Underground Tour!
Posted by GrowWashington on February 8, 2014 at 10:48 AM · Report this
Am I the only one who read that as "Time Machine Is Seriously Fucked?"
Posted by Xrock on February 8, 2014 at 10:58 AM · Report this
From Wikipedia:

The Big Dig was the most expensive highway project in the U.S. and was plagued by escalating costs, scheduling overruns, leaks, design flaws, charges of poor execution and use of substandard materials, criminal arrests,[2][3] and one death.[4] The project was originally scheduled to be completed in 1998[5] at an estimated cost of $2.8 billion (in 1982 dollars, US$6.0 billion adjusted for inflation as of 2006).[6] However, the project was completed only in December 2007, at a cost of over $14.6 billion ($8.08 billion in 1982 dollars, meaning a cost overrun of about 190%)[6] as of 2006.[7] The Boston Globe estimated that the project will ultimately cost $22 billion, including interest, and that it will not be paid off until 2038.

But, as a former Boston resident, it was worth it. People don't remember how f'in awful the Central Artery was, but I do.
Posted by Joel_are on February 8, 2014 at 11:38 AM · Report this
@43 Says who? They just started and look at all the problems they're having. At this rate, it'll take fifty years and the wealth of the Pharoes. (And they had slaves.) It doesn't matter how badly the civic leaders and the special interests who've sold themselves for this want the tunnel to be built. Wishing doesn't get dirt out. If the machine breaks down for good, that's it. Right now, nothing I've seen gives me confidence that this won't happen, that it'll all come out alright. But it's just as they say that the more you invest yourself in a hopeless situation or mistake, the harder it is to admit to it and face reality. The civic leadership would like to keep pushing this until the entire city goes down the hole.

Catalina, thanks for the lovely history lesson, but this isn't Diablo Dam or Henry Yesler or the Great Fire of 1889. This is 2014. We're getting screwed *right now*. Learning from history doesn't mean that we have to take a passive approach to everything and let disaster happen to us over and over again. Sure, we'll probably still be here. We'll just be so seriously bankrupt that our city won't be good for anything. We'll just take it out of the schools, the cops, the general maintenance, the future investments on the population that will never happen. It's a different world than 1889 and we're a different city. You can't compare the two.

@54 I don't know about Boston's Big Dig, but this project, if completed (ha!), would not carry more traffic than the Viaduct that's being replaced and, unlike the latter, it won't have a Downtown exit. And it doesn't connect directly to I-5. It's ridiculous. I don't know that the citizens stuck with the bill will feel that getting from I-90 by West Seattle to South Lake Union, while skipping Downtown, was worth the astronomical boondoggle.
Posted by floater on February 8, 2014 at 12:41 PM · Report this
raindrop 56
@55: Your dire financial prediction for Seattle is unlikely. To pay for the cost overruns, dear sweet Senator Murray or dear sweet Senator Cantwell will probably add a pork rider on an unrelated bill about food safety or something so that it will pass in the House.
Posted by raindrop on February 8, 2014 at 1:07 PM · Report this
They have to pull it up! This blog is gonna get wild- why is the
spare bearing in Europe? Six months from we'll see if they can
manage the water pressure.
Posted by Kelper2 on February 8, 2014 at 1:54 PM · Report this
William of Seattle 58
The City Council has just brought in Dr. Quartermass, a pit expert from London, with a great deal of prior experience in these unfortunate situations.

...While digging a new subway line in London, a construction crew discovers first: a skeleton, then what they think is an old World War II German missle. Upon closer examination the "missle" appears to be not of this earth. An ancient Martian spaceship is unearthed in London, and proves to have powerful psychic effects...

Posted by William of Seattle on February 8, 2014 at 2:43 PM · Report this
Catalina Vel-DuRay 59
Floater dear, I do think you're being more than a bit overwrought, but I'll play along with your Cherynobol-esque assessment for a moment, and ask you this: what exactly should we do? Write letters? Attend city council meetings? Have a bake sale?
Posted by Catalina Vel-DuRay on February 8, 2014 at 7:29 PM · Report this
What a bunch of drama queens! Big Bertha will be fixed, the tunnel will be completed with cost over runs (as expected) and we will all forget this incident in a couple of years. Much like the horrible Presidents we have had in the past (republicans rely on the short term memory of voters) The tunnel will be operational and the sea wall will be completed on time and Ivar's acres of Clams will have a great summer of tourists.
Posted by longwayhome on February 8, 2014 at 7:44 PM · Report this
Seattlebcc 61
The caption under the picture should read:
"Now, how do we pull this thing out again"?
Posted by Seattlebcc on February 9, 2014 at 5:39 AM · Report this
Fortunately, by statute, only Seattle taxpayers are stuck paying for the cost overruns. The cost overruns that were not going to happen. Have fun.
Posted by Silent Critic on February 9, 2014 at 10:57 AM · Report this
Fortunately, there is one small glimmer here. By legislative statute, ONLY Seattle taxpayers will pay for ALL of the ("won't ever happen because we have a contingency fund and are sharing potential cost overruns") cost overruns. They voted in the representatives who brought this expensive elephant to Washington and stuck every Washington taxpayer with the original cost guestimate which screwed all but is fixed for the rest of the state. They suckered you in and you bit, what this text on WDOT's site change when you Seattle taxpayers get the bill. From WDOT site - " We signed a design-build contract with Seattle Tunnel Partners in January 2011. Design-build combines project design and construction in a single contract.

More than 90 percent of the design-build work will be performed for a fixed price. The remaining amount includes work such as building repairs along the tunnel route, unplanned repairs to the tunneling machine and work stoppages due to differing site conditions. For these items, we established risk sharing with the design-builder.

We have set aside $205 million for known and unknown risks during tunnel construction. This amounts to 15 percent of the design-build contract, which falls well within industry standards."

The "partners" will be giving some of the original overpriced contract back is all. But watch the costs spiral and hit you folks hard. So you sew, so shall you reap. Enjoy it Seattlites, you brought it, you own it.

Have fun!
Posted by Silent Critic on February 9, 2014 at 11:11 AM · Report this
Yes, indeed, have fun you sorry liberal Seattlites! You get to go bankrupt a bit faster than the rest of this country!
Posted by Matt from Olympia on February 9, 2014 at 11:14 AM · Report this
Aaron 65
Yeah, well wait until we stop shipping all those tax dollars out of Seattle and King County to your subsidized rural asses, then we'll see who's laughing. Oh wait, you still need someplace to sell those extractive goods you pathetically call an economy. Guess we'll have to work something out.
Posted by Aaron on February 9, 2014 at 1:33 PM · Report this
I wonder how many fingers it would take to count the number of people who know how to troubleshoot and fix these machines. If I was betting my guess would be not that many.
Posted by Linus_99 on February 9, 2014 at 2:33 PM · Report this
@60 longwayhome: One can only hope.

Actually, I was (at least trying to) make light of the photo of the tunneling crew. It reminded me of a scene straight out of The Simpsons.
Posted by auntie grizelda on February 9, 2014 at 4:31 PM · Report this
Rrrrgggh! Make that @67 " least trying to make light", without the parentheses.
My brain, as usual, seems to be ahead of my fingers and keyboard.
Posted by auntie grizelda on February 9, 2014 at 4:36 PM · Report this
Fortunately, by statute, only Seattle taxpayers are stuck paying for the cost overruns. The cost overruns that were not going to happen. Have fun.
y tuong kinh doanh |
mua o to cu |
tieu duong |
Posted by tentler http://ok on February 10, 2014 at 5:09 AM · Report this
@54: Per 69, the Big Bore is funded much differently than the Big Dig. That difference could be a back breaker for Seattle, if not the state. Here's the nut of it:

For the Big Dig, Teddy K. largely nationalized the cost, getting the Feds to cover 85% of the tab. After a decade of ballooning costs, Congress finally put its foot down at $8.5Bn. That still covered about half of the total bill. Massachusetts state is on the hook for the other half, which comes to around $550MM/year in debt service (ultimately about $1500 per state resident). Boston doesn't pay disproportionately.

By contrast, the Big Bore has a fixed $700MM from the Feds. Moreover, the project financing bill limits the state's commitment to $2.8Bn. "Property owners in the Seattle area" are on the hook for the rest. And even if that provision is challenged, nobody's proposing real alternatives. (Murray's "Don't worry" is a non-starter.) WA doesn't have the political clout to demand a Federal bailout, and the reps of everywhere-but-Seattle will surely fight new tax burdens with only arcane, abstract benefits for their constituents.

What we need at this point is current, accurate costing numbers from the DOT, data that will ground public discourse and show us what we can (and can't) expect. Knowing that half the total project budget has been spent and we've dug only 1/10 of the route isn't very helpful, since project costs are front-loaded. I think it would be more interesting to know:

1. How much does each day of NOT digging cost us?
2. If our monthly costs, excepting materials, are more-or-less constant, even though we're not actually digging, what are we paying for? Are we still getting full value for those service costs?
2. How much have unscheduled parts and services (e.g., excavation, drill repair) cost us?
3. Are we inevitably over budget yet? If not, what's our margin now? If so, what are the cost-saving options for making up he shortfall?
4. What would it cost to stop all construction activity now, except drill repair, until the drill is moving forward at 100% again? Would that cost us more or less than proceeding as if the tunnel were still viable?

Research sources:… (PPT)…… (Megaproject Management: Lessons on Risk and Project Management from the Big Dig)…………
Posted by diorist on February 10, 2014 at 2:45 PM · Report this
Yet another WSDOT boondoggle, complete with the usual obfuscation, and now with CYA "messaging" by none other than former deputy mayor Tim Ceis's lobbying firm. Why doesn't someone in Olympia come clean and stay ahead of the news rather than hide behind it?
Posted by RSD on February 10, 2014 at 4:37 PM · Report this

"Well, here's another nice mess you've gotten me into!"

"Why don't you do something to HELP me!?"

"Why don't you keep your big mouth shut?!"

Fill in the speakers names. Surprise.

Posted by Tard on April 24, 2014 at 10:54 AM · Report this

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