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State to hold contractor accountable on tunnel

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 11, 2014 at 11:34 pm •  Published: February 11, 2014

SEATTLE (AP) — As a contracting team works to fix broken seals on a massive tunneling machine stalled under downtown Seattle, state officials said Tuesday they plan to hold the contractors accountable for repairs or any potential cost overruns on the highway tunnel project.

Gov. Jay Inslee said the state will insist that the contractors honor their contract, much as a homeowner who hires a contractor to remodel a house would.

"We're going to insist that the tunnel gets built on time or the contractor is going to be financially responsible to the citizens of this state for every single penny of cost overruns that that contractor could eventually be responsible for," Inslee said Tuesday.

His comments came during a news conference in Olympia to announce a state moratorium on the death penalty.

Seattle Tunnel Partners is deciding how to fix broken seals on the world's largest tunneling machine, called "Bertha," which is stuck about 60 feet underground. It's been mostly idle for two months and is only one-tenth of the way toward completing a 1.7-mile highway tunnel. The tunnel will carry Highway 99 traffic and allow the removal of the aging Alaskan Way Viaduct along the Seattle waterfront. The tunnel project is budgeted at $1.4 billion, and the total viaduct replacement is estimated to be a $3.1 billion project.

Transportation officials announced late Monday that it could take months to fully repair the boring machine.

"We're sure that it can be fixed," Chris Dixon, director of Seattle Tunnel Partners said at a news conference Tuesday. He added that the machine has performed and advanced much faster than expected during the first 150 days, despite becoming stuck in late December.

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