We’ll be having more on this later but here are some excerpts from elsewhere.

Seattle PI: Gregoire: Viaduct tunnel bids at or below estimates

Bids for the tunnel replacement for the Alaskan Way Viaduct came in at or below estimates, Gov. Chris Gregoire announced Friday morning.

Two pre-qualified joint-venture contract teams dropped off their proposed bids by Thursday’s deadline. The exact figures in the bids will remain secret until December.

“I am proud to announce that the two bids to build the deep-bore tunnel are both at or below the price we set in our contract, not one dollar more,” Gregoire said during a news conference at the Port of Seattle offices at Pier 69.

The state estimated the cost of digging the 54-foot diameter tunnel — the largest deep-bore tunnel yet in the world — at about $1.1 billion. But due the risks involved in tunneling through Seattle’s glacial soils and the fact that this will be the largest highway tunnel yet in the world, many fear the project could cost more.

WSDOT already has offered about $210 million in allowances and incentives to the two contracting teams. The money will be shifted from the reserve fund, leaving $205 million.

About $110 million is to cover inflation, which wasn’t included in the original request for proposals. The reason is state officials wanted to wait until contractors had time to work with the design and have another six months to see where the market would go before signing the contract. Part of the reserve fund was intended to cover inflation, anyway.

Another $100 million was to account for higher costs than expected in obtaining insurance and bonding.

State leaders say the reserve still exceeds the 15 percent recommended by expert panels.

It includes $40 million in a pot of money to cover any settlement or damage to buildings caused by tunneling. The contractor is entitled to recover 75 percent of whatever is left over when the project is completed.

In addition, the contract offers cash incentives if the project is completed ahead of schedule — $100,000 for every day up to $25 million. If work finishes ahead of schedule, that most likely means the project avoided costly delays that would tap into reserves, said Ron Paananen, administrator for the Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement program.

More after the jump.

Publicola: Tunnel Environmental Study Fails to Address Issues With Previous Version

The latest version of the state’s supplemental draft environmental impact statement (SDEIS) for the deep-bore tunnel fails to address concerns raised by tunnel opponents about the environmental study’s emphasis on moving cars, the fact that the tunnel would increase greenhouse gas emissions, and the fact that the state projects an  increase in congestion downtown once the tunnel is built.

Moreover, while one chapter of the study does consider the impact of tolling, the study itself assumes that the tunnel would not be tolled. (According to the state, tolls are supposed to pay for $400 million of the project’s total cost). With tolls, the study found, downtown Seattle would see as many as 45,000 more cars on city streets every day. Put another way, that means that more than half the people (86,000, according to WSDOT’s estimate) who would use a free tunnel would move onto city streets if the tunnel is tolled—raising the obvious question: Why build a multi-billion-dollar tunnel that only about 40,000 people will use per day?

Times: Gregoire vows to veto tunnel cost overruns for Seattle

Gov. Chris Gregoire said Friday she would veto any bill that would charge Seattle taxpayers for cost overruns on the Highway 99 tunnel.

At a news conference in Seattle, Gregoire said a 2009 law passed by the Legislature, which would assign cost overruns to “Seattle property owners who benefit,” was merely a statement of intent, and would require a more specific follow-up bill to have any real effect.

That wasn’t good enough for Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn, who, at his own afternoon news conference, said, “I don’t believe we can trust the governor to keep … promises to protect us.”

He later said he didn’t trust the Legislature, either. McGinn said he talked with Gregoire earlier this week to ask that she send lawmakers a bill clearing up the overruns questions. He said Gregoire told him to “find another sponsor.”

32 Replies to “The Big Day: SR-99 Bids, SDEIS, and Cost Overruns”

  1. So the project is running out of money and they still haven’t told us where we’d find it? Oh, okay. We can’t do it via tax increases at the state level so where do we get the money?

    So far as her veto, she will indeed be overridden. The votes are absolutely there, even more so after this upcoming election.

    1. This is actually the worst case scenario O’Brien has put forward – the existing law limits the state expenditure, and Seattle doesn’t want to pay. So if they hit the budget limit when the tunnel is 80% dug what happens? Does it just stop uncompleted?

    2. No Veto? I’m feeling warm and cozy from an elected official whose term expires before the cost overruns will be know.
      Did she promise to run and win in 2012?

  2. McGinn has a really terrible relationship with just about everyone of consequence outside of the Seattle Transit Blog, doesn’t he? Now he is insulting the governor who is a fellow Democrat to add to his insults of the City Council, most – if not all – of whom are also Democrats.

    I don’t see how anyone can see this as leadership, but assuming it is, it is based on confrontation to plans agreed on long before he came to office on a doubtful anti-tunnel mandate. I say doubtful because he muddied his pitch right before the election and told everyone he wouldn’t thwart the wishes of the Council.

    As for the tunnel bids themselves, they came in at or under budget and the governor has agreed to veto any cost overruns. Let’s see how this unfolds but we should be encouraged at this point I think.

    1. I am not encouraged.

      They clearly juiced the incentives in order to get the bids in under budget, and now we’ve lost half our slush.

    2. The contingency fund will run dry if the next budget re-adjustment is as big as the one this week ($210 million).

      And, while we are at it, compare polls on how Mayor McGinn and Governor Gregoire are doing. Who stands a better chance of getting re-elected?

      1. Tim Whittome wrote:

        “Hopefully not the Mayor!”

        Frankly, Tim, if the mayor could succeed in stopping the tunnel, I wouldn’t mind him not getting re-elected. As it is, he is one of the most pro-transit politicians in elected office, and Gov. Gregoire is one of the most anti-transit Democrats in elected office.

        Even most of labor, outside of the Building and Trades Council, won’t support her if she tries to run again.

  3. tunneling through Seattle’s glacial soils … this will be the largest highway tunnel yet in the world

    And people call Bellevue auto-centric?

  4. So after seeing the Mayor give his “Don’t trust the Guv” press briefing, I was wondering when he would present his West-side Light Rail plan for the 2011 vote…

    1. I don’t hold high hopes for any light rail plan McGinn proposes. He’ll try to foist an at-grade line from Ballard to West Seattle through Belltown via 15th Ave, and it will serve nobody well.

      1. I didn’t say I thought it was a good idea, Kyle. I guess what I was really saying was – if we don’t have funding for anything else, and it seems pretty clear to me that until some future ST3 package we do not, what else would you expect the man to propose?

      2. I would expect him to propose something substantial to Sound Transit as a basis for what the city would like to see in ST3.

  5. I’ve been observing traffic on the Viaduct. Seems like much of the time, even close to rush hour, it doesn’t have many cars on it at all.

    I wonder if this is a whole lot of fuss for nothing.

    1. I’ve been in traffic on the viaduct, and While I can usually weave around others with ease, It is a very well used roadway, and sometimes I can’t get anywhere on it due to congestion.

    2. I used to live next to the Western Ave exit on the viaduct. At least once a week, usually more often, southbound traffic would be an utter crawl during the evening rush. Less frequently, it would be a crawl northbound during the morning rush. This is observed just before the Battery St. Tunnel.

      The viaduct is no I-5, but it’s pretty popular.

      1. The Mercer corridor on which WSDOT proposes to redirect half of this traffic is mostly residential with more stoplights (12/13 vs 7/9), more turns and steeper hillclimb than access to SR99 in Lower Belltown. The cut/cover rebuilds SR99 beneath Western/Elliott and improves both access ramps. Getting rid of the overhead would help manage traffic in Lower Belltown.


    3. Why don’t we just close the viaduct for a [fill in period of time here – week, month, etc] and see how traffic adapts? I’m sure various models have been created and simulations run…what better way to validate them? Its got to be longer than a day or a weekend – we need to see what people are willing to do long-term.

      1. It is silly to think that the state would do something so reasonable. If they did this experiment then it would quickly become apparent that there is no need for a tunnel and that the surface transit plan would work fine. That is the last thing that Gregoire and WSDOT want to see happen.

      2. I’m not sure that gets the desired outcome, Brett… Surface+Transit proponents aren’t suggesting that the Viaduct can just be closed without any problems. The surface option depends upon improvements to the existing street grid (which are not really part of the tunnel proposal) as well as increased transit in the corridor.

  6. The following link is to WSDOT’s website and the EIS chapter “Comparison of Alternatives” specifically comparing the deep bore, cut/cover and elevated replacement options. I’ve always favored the cut/cover and am more hopeful it will see its day in court.


    The main concerns for the AWV replacement, before cost and cost overrun, are managing traffic, reducing impacts and incurring the least risk to construct.

    All studies show the cut/cover best retains the existing traffic pattern and displaces the least traffic onto surface streets where impacts are deplorably unacceptable. Alaskan Way, Mercer Street & Place, Denny Way, Westlake and Nickerson corridors all face more traffic with the DBT, and least traffic with the cut/cover. The surface/transit option isn’t in the study but also has less impact than the DBT because displaced traffic is constrained to Alaskan Way.

    In this latest EIS, the cut/cover ONLY reconnects Harrison, Thomas and John streets at Aurora with stoplights though it’s possible (and desirable) to reconnect the grid by extending the Battery Street Tunnel to Harrison. These stoplights increase WSDOT’s travel time forecast to favor the DBT.

    Another point of contention in the study is the cut/cover travel time in the northbound morning rush hours. The new cut/cover will have a 2-lane exit ramp instead of the current 1-lane ramp. This should reduce backups and travel time, but isn’t apparent in the EIS.

  7. The truth on cost overruns is actually a simple one for deep-bore tunneling. The main risk is that a boring machine will breakdown in the tunnel. If there is a breakdown then there is about a six month delay and the cost of removing and restarting the machine. This is a known cost and process, not an endless spiral of overruns. Most boring machines do not break down, but it does happen.

    1. “Most boring machines do not break down…”

      Except the one at the Brightwater sewage tunnel… So we have up close and personal what happens. Except that to dig down and get the machine out is going to be really really tricky if it just happens to break under one of the towering buildings downtown.

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