Bertha idled as unions fight over dirt

SEATTLE -- One cannot dig a tunnel without moving a lot of dirt. And if you can't move the dirt, you can't continue to dig and so Bertha sits idle.

"It's horrible. I hate it,” neighbor Betty Wilson said.

So does everyone else involved, including two unions who are at odds over who will move the dirt and who will load it on to the barges for disposal -- longshoremen or the building trades union.

The longshoremen's union blames the Washington State Department of Transportation and the Port of Seattle.

In one published report the longshoremen union president Cameron Williams was quoted saying: "The Port and WSDOT remain on the sidelines of the dispute, even though it has been brewing for months, and has resulted in a well-publicized picket line and the filing of complaints with the National Labor Relations Board."

According to the Seattle Times, the problem arose after each of the unions was awarded a contract to move the dirt. The confusion led to a strike that idled Bertha.

Some people living downtown say WSDOT and the Port aren't doing enough to manage the project.

"I don't feel like they are. I don't feel like they are doing enough at all,” Danen Hagglund said.

"The taxpayers, it will cost them more money and I certainly hate inefficiency with dollars, try to keep track of every penny. But the reality is this is also a very wealthy city and where everywhere else is declining in the economy, this one is rising and i think the city can actually overcome this,” Florin Berbeneciuc said.

Only time will tell and in the business of tunnels or any other major infrastructure project time is money.

Mayor Mike McGinn, who led the charge against the tunnel, said he wants to see Bertha moving again and the project on, or ahead, of schedule.

"It's my objective that we complete this project under budget and on time because over budget, we don't know what the consequences will be and who is going to pay. So I'm concerned about this work stoppage,” McGinn said.

Bertha has been idle for 32 days and in that time it has moved only 24 feet. By comparison, she's expected to move that much every day when she is running full steam.