Governor defends Seattle tunnel project, rejects proposals to kill it

OLYMPIA -- Gov. Jay Inslee came out swinging Thursday in defense of the Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement in downtown Seattle.  It came just a few days after two key lawmakers called for cutting losses and scrapping the embattled tunneling project.

“They owe us a tunnel,” Inslee said of the private contractor overseeing construction.  “We have a very solid agreement with this contractor.”

The tunnel project has become somewhat of a nightmare.  The Bertha boring machine is damaged, the viaduct is sinking and in dangerous shape, and there’s no telling whether Bertha will ever be able to dig again.

And all the while, the costs are racking up.  It’s therefore little wonder that some argue it’s time to cut losses and figure out another alternative.

But the governor is definitely not one of those.

On Thursday, he made clear he’s moving forward with the project, which is being managed by the Washington State Department of Transportation, but which is being built by an independent company.

“We have an obligation in writing that they give us a tunnel, on time, within a designated budget,” Inslee said. “We intend to insist on that.”

For critics of WSDOT, the problems with the tunnel are just some of challenges the state has had overseeing major projects of late.  There have been high-profile problems with the SR 520 Bridge pontoons and the ferry system, too.