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Gov. Inslee: Seattle tunnel contractor downplaying Bertha’s sinkhole

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee ordered Bertha to halt boring underneath Seattle on Jan. 13 after a sinkhole developed in its wake. (Jillian Raftery/KIRO Radio)

Washington state officials are shaking their heads after a Seattle Tunnel Partners’ report on the sinkhole that appeared behind Bertha.

“I’m extremely disappointed in this contractor,” Washington Governor Jay Inslee said Thursday morning.

“We know we’ve had this huge delay. We’ve have circumstances with this contractor knowingly, at least now is admitting, they stopped doing basic quality assurance work with a safety component,” he said. “They did if for the first 1,000 feet. When they broke out of the tunnel they simply stopped doing it. They’ve given us no explanation why they dropped that other than they were looking at other things. That is not acceptable to me.”

State senator not ready to pull plug on Bertha

The Seattle Times reports that the Washington State Department of Transportation is not satisfied with answers from STP, which wants to restart Bertha and move it 250 feet forward to its scheduled maintenance stop. But Gov. Inslee ordered the boring machine to halt on Jan. 13 after a sinkhole developed in Bertha’s wake.

Inslee said it was a “clear cut decision” to stop Bertha. He said that WSDOT engineers, who are eager to complete the project, expressed concerns over safety and he refers to their expertise.

Crews filled that sinkhole with 250 cubic yards of concrete. It led to concerns over the tunnel project which is approaching a point where Bertha will dig underneath downtown Seattle’s viaduct and skyscrapers.

WSDOT rejected STP’s report, determining that it did not sufficiently address the root causes of the sinkhole. It did not also address how crews will prevent similar incidents in the future, The Seattle Times reports. WSDOT sent STP away with instructions to address those concerns.

Renowned architect calls Bertha’s sinkhole a big mistake

“We are going to hopefully get that information as soon as we can and I’m hoping the contractor will show a renewed sense of responsibility and a renewed commitment to safety,” Inslee said. “We need that.”

“I’ve heard the contractor downplay the significance of sinkholes, like ‘no big deal,'” he said. “Excuse me, a sinkhole underneath the viaduct or a brick building in Seattle is a big deal. We need adequate information before we move forward.”

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