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State senator is not ready to pull the plug on Seattle’s tunnel project

Considering all the delays, skyrocketing costs, and now sinkholes, it begs the question: is it time to bury the Seattle tunnel project?

No one seems ready to make the call, at least not yet.

I asked Senator Curtis King, the chair of the Transportation Committee, that question a year ago. He wasn’t ready to pull the plug. I asked him the same question again a few days ago. Does he have a date in his mind where he will say “enough is enough?”

Related: Bertha delays nothing compared to those of early Seattle

“There is no date, in my opinion,” he said. “I mean reality is reality. At some point there would be a date, but I’m not ready to give up yet. I’m disappointed that the governor felt the need to stop drilling … They were making progress.”

The Seattle tunneling machine Bertha has gone 190 feet since crews started mining again; before being told to stop due to a sinkhole that developed in its wake.

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King understands some people feel this project is doomed to fail. But he says the state has invested too much to give up. Senator King wants to see how the drill is holding up when it reaches Safe Haven 3, just before moving under the Alaskan Way Viaduct.

“Once they do that and they feel comfortable, then it’s a matter of we’re all in and let’s get this done,” he said. “Because we don’t have any really good alternatives. We put our money on this baby and we need to make sure we get it to the finish line.”

But he admits he’ll be more than a little nervous once Bertha starts going under buildings.

“I won’t be nervous when it goes under the viaduct because we’re going to close it down … I’m going to be a little more nervous when we start going down First Avenue,” he said.

To reiterate, Senator King is not ready to cut losses and call it a day.

“If and when it’s done, we’re going to sit back and go man, that was really something,” he said. “And I hope that we get there. We’re ready to rock and roll on the south end and north end. I think we’re in a great position. I think we just need to get this hole drilled and get this project onto fruition.”

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For now, however, the project is on hold until Seattle Tunnel Partners can guarantee safety.

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