Bertha’s still stuck. Portland’s Morrison Bridge deck still has legal issues to match its decking woes. The Pacific Northwest isn’t void of major projects facing major questions.
First, the latest on Bertha. And it isn’t good news. We now are approaching two months of North America’s largest tunnel-boring machine sitting stuck below Seattle in an effort to bore a 57.5-ft-dia tunnel for a new State Route 99. And the fingers are sure pointing.
The Washington State Dept. of Transportation is in full blame mode on contractor Seattle Tunnel Partners, claiming in emails there have been concerns since July over the way the group was running the machine and giving the public documents that show the contractor knew all about a steel pipe that is at least partially to blame for slowing the machine. But the worst news is that this steel pipe found lodged in Bertha’s cutting head likely isn’t the only reason Bertha got stuck and is still sitting about 60 ft below the ground.
The delay continues to mount, still with no end in sight. Expect plenty of litigation to settle the costs for the delays and any possible fixes.
Speaking of litigation, that’s the norm for the Morrison Bridge issue that has Ridgefield, Wash.’s Conway locked in lawsuits with owner Multnomah County and the North Carolina polymer decking company Zellcomp. Shortly after Conway installed the specialty decking surface in 2012 it started coming apart. It needs fixing, if not full replacement. And soon.
The lawsuits have flown fast and furious and Conway has asked a judge to excuse it from the latest round, saying the county forced the contractors to use a decking company they weren’t confident with. Conway says all the fault lies with Multnomah County choosing Zellcomp. The county claims Conway didn’t install the decking properly. And that doesn’t even count lawsuits during the project for alleged environmental missteps from Conway. Oh, the bickering.
No matter who is correct in each situation, we have a tunnel-boring machine stuck dead in the water (and ground) in Seattle and a brand-new bridge deck already falling apart in Portland. Unfortunately, these aren’t coming off as banner projects. But thanks to the courts, we’ll get to see more about them for months and years to come.