• Tunnel contractors attempt to bill state $1.1 million for Bertha's sinkhole

    By: Graham Johnson


    SEATTLE, Wash. - Contractors on the Highway 99 tunnel project are trying to bill the state about $1.1 million for the sinkhole that formed near the tunnel machine Bertha.
    In a change order request obtained by KIRO 7 through a records request, contractors said the January sinkhole at least partially stemmed from problems mining out of the repair pit.
    They're asking for more money because they contend the breakdown, which required the pit in the first place, is basically the state's fault, because they said the Washington State Department of Transportation didn't adequately warn about a steel pipe in Bertha's path.
    Contractors said chewing through the pipe had a role in Bertha breaking down.
    The state strongly disputes that theory of the breakdown and the fight could eventually be settled in court.
    Documents show STP is also asking for about $422,000 related to a January barge incident, when excavated dirt spilled into Puget Sound and a dock was damaged.
    In letters to the state, STP claimed WSDOT directed contractors to utilize members from ILWU Local 19, which resulted in positioning unsecured barges with an assist tug, rather than positioning secured barges with deck winches, "which made it more difficult to safely and evenly load the barge in a controlled manner."
    WSDOT officials responded in letters to STP that they never made such a demand.
    Just because contractors ask for more money doesn't mean they'll get it.
    As of February 29, WSDOT officials said tunnel contractors have requested an additional $213 million in change orders, including $125.3 million related to the tunneling stoppage.
    The state said it has denied $141.7 million, is reviewing $37.8 million and has agreed to $33.5 million.
    STP has a $1.35 billion contract with the state.
    State officials said when they agree to change orders that raise the cost, they have funds set aside to cover the unexpected.


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