by: Deborah Horne Updated:
SEATTLE - "It's good news that Bertha will soon be back in business."
Even as he delivered the news, Gov. Jay Inslee could not hide his frustration. After all, the tunnel-boring machine "Bertha" has been stuck in the middle of a tense standoff between the contractor and the Longshoreman's Union over who can load barges with the dirt she chews up. The governor said he had had enough.
"I believed that the time had come that a billion-dollar project simply could not take further delay," said Inslee. "And that this morning. One way or another, we were going to have a public airing of this.
The Longshoremen blinked -- and agreed to take down their pickets. The governor said he understands the import of the issues to each side but Bertha needed to get back to work.
Bertha had gotten just 24 feet into a 1.7-mile journey underneath the city. She started working July 30 but stopped just two weeks later. On Aug. 29, the governor intervened. Now three weeks later, an agreement to get Bertha back on track. It is good news to people we talked to along the waterfront.
"Weighing the pros and cons," said Mary Talley, a union supporter, "I'd like to see this thing get moving though for all we're paying for it."
The governor says he will meet with the both sides to try to resolve the issue.
Meanwhile, Bertha could resume work by week's end.