Governor Inslee says tunnel project will resume

September 17, 2013

On July 30th, the largest tunnel boring machine in the world began digging the tunnel that will replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct underneath Seattle. Three weeks later the machine stopped. It wasn’t malfunctioning parts or bad planning that held up the project, it was unions fighting over four dirt-hauling jobs.

Estimated to progress at six feet per day, the machine has only traveled 24 feet, four days worth. It is expected to progress at about 35 feet per day once in good soil underneath downtown.

In a press conference today, Governor Inslee announced the machine will start tunneling again. Although the labor dispute isn’t over, one union has agreed to stop picketing.  The governor said that it will have “negative financial” impacts “categorized in the millions of dollars,” but that the state is not on the hook for the costs of delay.

Governor Inslee also said that this issue “illustrated some larger issues” with the way we build transportation projects.

The Project Labor Agreement signed by the parties involved contains a “no strike clause” and ways to solve disagreements between unions, but did little to stop union picketing that shut down the project for nearly a month.