Dirt from Seattle tunnel will be shipped to Jefferson County

by: Chris Legeros Updated:

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SEATTLE —

Since the machine called "Bertha" started digging a tunnel to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct, dirt has been trucked away to dump sites that would accept it because it contains cement that was used to start the project. 

Early next month, as Bertha reaches cleaner soil, that dirt is supposed to be barged away to a quarry near Port Ludlow. The trouble is, we still don't know who will load the barges. 

The program administrator, Todd Trepanier, said the labor jurisdiction issue "is still being worked on."

In late August, longshoremen shut down the tunnel project for a month, claiming their dock workers should be hired for loading barges, not the building trades workers the tunnel contractor planned to use. The pickets were pulled only after a request by the Governor and both sides went to the National Labor Relations Board looking for a resolution. 

Then the federal government shut down for two weeks. 

Trepanier confirms the shutdown "did affect the moving forward with the NLRB ruling." 

Trepanier is still confident some kind of agreement can be worked out by the time dirt is ready to be barged away. He doesn't want to say anything that would jeopardize negotiations. He doesn't even want to talk about options available to keep the project moving if the dispute continues, like continuing to truck dirt from the site. 

"When you say options, it can sound like one of those is favoring one over the other and I would never want to do that," he said. "What we want to do here is have a fair resolution that everyone is happy with when we're done."