In a surprise move last week, the GOP-led Washington State Senate voted 25-21 not to confirm Washington State Dept. of Transportation Secretary Lynn Peterson.
The denial of a Gov. Jay Inslee appointee, the first time a governor’s nominee has been denied in the state since 1998, according to the Associated Press, effectively fires Peterson after three years at the helm of an agency involved in multiple megaprojects.
Spokane-based senator Michael Baumgartner, a vocal opponent of Democrats and major WSDOT projects, says Peterson didn’t show the leadership needed to run an agency tasked with so many major projects. Republicans cited trouble in projects such as the pontoon portion of the Highway 520 floating bridge replacement, new toll lanes on I-405 and, of course, the mishaps involved with the much-delayed Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement tunnel.
That tunnel, with the world’s largest tunnel-boring machine, remains suspended for cause by WSDOT. After over two years of the machine, Bertha, sitting stuck near the beginning of her run to bore a 1.7-mile-long tunnel under downtown Seattle, the project restarted in January only to get shut down by an Inslee directive. Seattle Tunnel Partners, the joint venture leading the project, damaged Terminal 46 when the company’s debris removal barge became loose. But more troubling, a sinkhole developed behind Bertha’s tunneled route the same week and WSDOT cited a lack of oversight from the contractors on the process.
Seattle Tunnel Partners will repair the damage to Terminal 46 by removing 22 damaged timber piles from the pier at the northern edge, replacing them with temporary piles. The work should take about 10 days to complete. If tunneling resumes—the contractor must show detailed plans to ensure sinkholes don’t occur again before the machine moves under downtown Seattle buildings—before the pier is repaired, crews will use trucks to remove excavated soil.
Follow Tim Newcomb on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.