• Jan. 22 project update

    It is not uncommon for disputes to arise between owners and contractors during a construction project. One way to resolve disagreements is through a dispute review board. The review board, a panel of three experts chosen by the parties jointly, reviews the facts of a dispute and makes recommendations to the owner and contractor. The SR 99 Tunnel Project contract between WSDOT and Seattle Tunnel Partners established a dispute review board.
    In 2013, the board heard arguments related to STP’s request for a change order for work associated with strengthening the Alaskan Way Viaduct in advance of tunneling under it. WSDOT denied this request and the board issued a recommendation that was consistent with WSDOT’s denial. STP may pursue reconsideration, which is allowed under the contract.
    In late 2012, Seattle Tunnel Partners requested a change order for an alleged differing site condition in the launch pit at the south portal. STP’s request was for $20 million. WSDOT rejected this request. Last year, both WSDOT and STP agreed to ask the board to make a recommendation and the matter was heard in October.
    To clarify, this dispute is related to a differing site condition experienced while building the launch pit; it is not related to the stoppage of the tunneling machine or recent settlement near the access pit. And, there are funds set aside within the existing project budget to deal with differing site conditions.
    On Jan. 16, the board submitted its recommendation, which stated in part that a “differing site condition was encountered in the glacial soils and that STP is entitled to relief” to the extent it incurred costs or delays because of that condition. The board did not determine what costs or delays were caused by the differing site condition it identified. STP promptly sent a letter accepting the board’s recommendation.
    We are still reviewing the board’s recommendation. As a reminder, the board’s recommendations are just that, recommendations. If WSDOT or STP disagrees with a recommendation, either party can ask for reconsideration or simply move to the next process allowed under the contract. The next steps will be determined after our analysis is completed. 


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  • Nighttime lane closures on SR 99/Aurora Avenue North near South Lake Union

    Seattle drivers should plan for possible overnight delays next week on State Route 99/Aurora Avenue North between Queen Anne Hill and Lake Union.

    Closure details

    • From Monday, Jan. 26, through the morning of Friday, Jan. 30, crews will close up to two lanes in each direction of SR 99/Aurora Avenue North between Valley and Halladay streets from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. each night.

    During the closures, construction crews working for the Washington State Department of Transportation will continue work to locate existing utilities in advance of upcoming installation of overhead signs.

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  • Jan. 12 project update

    We want to clarify media reports that may have left you with the impression that the SR 99 tunnel access pit is unsafe. Despite what you may have seen or read, at no time has there been a “risk of catastrophic failure” due to excavation of the access pit.
    Last week, the Seattle Department of Transportation and Seattle Public Utilities sent WSDOT a letter with concerns about construction and dewatering of the pit that will be used to access and repair the tunneling machine.
    The City’s letter compares sentences from draft Dec. 11 and final Dec. 19 letters written by Seattle Tunnel Partners’ Engineer of Record on the access pit. These letters were between the contractor and its sub-contractor. An Engineer of Record’s role is to prepare a design and help assess potential risks for any work on a contract and make recommendations on ways to address those risks so they don’t materialize.
    Before access pit construction began, STP and their Engineer of Record agreed to inspection procedures to verify the quality of the access pit work as excavation progressed to 90 feet below the ground surface. Procedures for excavation below 90 feet had not been agreed upon in December; they have since been finalized.
    The Engineer of Record sent a draft letter to STP on Dec. 11 starting a technical conversation between the two parties about whether their current procedures needed to be adjusted for excavation below 90 feet. Both agreed that the procedures needed to be adjusted. The Engineer of Record then revised their draft letter and sent a final version on December 19 that stated excavation may not proceed until new procedures are adopted. This is a routine work and risk assessment process. 
    At no time did the Engineer of Record state that there was an existing “risk of catastrophic failure” due to access pit excavation. The correspondence describes what steps STP must continue to take to assure that they adequately address risk for the balance of the work.
    STP is excavating and verifying their work in a manner that is consistent with the direction from their Engineer of Record – otherwise they would not be allowed to continue. This is a design-build contract which puts the responsibility of design and construction on the contractor. WSDOT’s role is to assure the terms of contract are met and to verify the quality of the work.
    Our first priority is safety – period. At no time has the Alaskan Way Viaduct or the access pit been at risk due to excavation. The viaduct remains safe for vehicle travel.
    WSDOT and the City have a shared commitment to public safety and to improve communication. We are in constant contact with representatives from SDOT and other departments at the City. We have provided access to all of our data and have weekly meetings where they can raise questions about the data they are receiving.
    The City has access to real-time information, and we will work with the City to establish more specific protocols so that when there are questions about a project activity we both share data, expertise and context.
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Program Spotlight

  • Information for residents and businesses in Pioneer Square

    Recently, our team detected approximately one inch of ground settlement near the pit Seattle Tunnel Partners is building to access and repair the SR 99 tunneling machine. Settlement was also detected on the Alaskan Way Viaduct and some of the buildings that we are monitoring; the amount of settlement lessens in the surrounding area. Our experts are still analyzing data and conducting daily inspections of the viaduct, but the initial settlement we reported publically on Dec. 5 has since … more