UPDATE: 6 Month Delay 'Optimistic' For Tunnel

bertha drillingAn official for the contractor boring the Seattle Highway 99 tunnel says a six month delay in the stalled construction is a "slightly optimistic" forecast. Seattle Tunnel Partners project manager Chris Dixon says Friday his firm and the Japanese company that built the massive digging machine, dubbed Bertha, have narrowed down their options to three shafts of different sizes.

Dixon says a team from Hitachi-Zosen will have a finalized report on their options in about 10 days. Dixon says building and designing a shaft to access Bertha will take about 2 months and then repairs would have to take place. Bertha ground to a halt in the first week of December about 1,000 feet into the 1.7-mile tunnel route.

Experts Expect Seattle Tunnel To Stay On Budget
A report from the governor's expert review panel says the stalled Highway 99 tunnel under downtown Seattle could be late but still meet its budget. The Seattle Times reports the 43-page document released Thursday predicts the four-lane tube will be completed in the first half of 2016 and open by mid-November.

The experts expect costs won't overrun the overall $3.1 billion for the project to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct. The report warns that strained relations between the state Transportation Department and the contractor, Seattle Tunnel Partners, could be a problem. The department's administrator for the project, Todd Trepanier, told reporters in a conference call Thursday afternoon that they had open lines of communication, although there were difficult issues. The department hopes to hear Friday when tunneling will resume.

February 28, 2014/AP