Cost, who will pay for Bertha digging delay

by: John Knicely Updated:

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SEATTLE - Bertha got back to digging the Highway 99 tunnel under Seattle on Monday at 5 a.m., but it’s a mystery at this point how much the four-week delay will cost and who will pay for it.

There was a flurry of activity Monday at the dig site just across the Alaskan Way Viaduct from Century Link Field.  Elissa Klaczynski works in a building across the street and KIRO 7 asked what she feels.

“Sometimes if I'm sitting at my desk and I feel a vibration, I check my phone because it's on vibrate,” said Klaczynski.  “A lot of times it's not my phone, which makes me think it could be the boring machine.”

The labor dispute, involving just a handful of workers over who removes the dirt and issues with muck clogging the machine, stopped digging for four weeks. But project leaders said it won't change the completion date of December 2015.

The project was listed at $1.35 billion, but KIRO 7 asked about the cost of the delay to the taxpayer.  Project Manager Chris Dixon said it’s not clear.

 “No, we're still looking at that,” Dixon said.

When pressed whether it will be in the millions of dollars, Dixon began nodding his head yes, but was cut off by Todd Trepanier, program administrator for Washington Department of Transportation.

“I think it'd be premature to say any number like that,” said Trapanier.  “As Chris mentioned STP and DOT will be working together with the contract to determine that.”

And both said that it’s not clear whether taxpayers will have to pay or if the contactor, Seattle Tunnel Partners, will pay.

The labor dispute with the Longshoremen is now being handled by the National Labor Relations Board.

Right now Bertha is moving 6 ½  feet per day and has 100 more feet of cement-like earth to get through. Then it will speed up to 13 feet per day and eventually 39 feet.