Feb. 27 update: How is an early or late tunnel opening addressed in the design-build contract?
We’ve received questions from the public about whether the tunnel will open on time. The short answer is that Seattle Tunnel Partners (STP), our design-build contractor, is responsible for opening the tunnel to traffic by a date included in the design-build contract with WSDOT. STP is working with the machine’s manufacturer to develop and implement a repair plan so that mining can begin again. In conjunction with that work, STP will provide an updated schedule for the overall project including the anticipated date for opening the tunnel to traffic.
How the tunnel opening date is described in the design-build contract
An initial construction schedule for the SR 99 Tunnel Project was developed in 2010 when WSDOT released a Request for Proposals (RFP) and bidders responded. In the RFP, WSDOT stated that the winning contractor had to open the tunnel to traffic by Nov. 1, 2016. Extra points were given in the RFP evaluation process to bidders who could open the tunnel earlier than Nov. 1, 2016.
As part of its successful bid on the project, STP proposed opening the tunnel on Dec. 21, 2015, 316 days earlier than the RFP requirement. This date was based upon an assumed notice to proceed of Aug. 15, 2011. The actual notice to proceed was provided on Aug. 23, 2011, resulting in a revised tunnel opening date of Dec. 29, 2015. This milestone can be changed through a formal process known as a change order. As an example, a change order has been approved giving STP four additional working days due to inclement weather. As a result, the current opening of the tunnel to traffic is scheduled for Jan. 2, 2016.
What happens if the contractor opens the tunnel early or late?
For each day STP opens the tunnel earlier than Nov. 1, 2016, it is eligible to receive $100,000 per day, up to a maximum of $25 million. Conversely, for each day STP works beyond the Jan. 2 opening date, absent a change order modifying that date, it will be subject to liquidated damages in the amount of $50,000 per day. This holds true until Nov. 1, 2016. If the tunnel opens to traffic after Nov. 1, 2016, liquidated damages under the contract increase to $100,000 per day, up to a maximum total of $75 million.
STP’s original construction schedule included 339 working days to mine the 9,300-foot-long tunnel, including time for maintenance and interventions. This was based on a planned production rate that was slower at first, but increased to nearly 40 feet per day – a pace that STP believes is conservative when the machine is functioning properly. The schedule was based on the assumption that mining would occur five days per week, 20 hours per day. A contractor can, and frequently does, make changes to its schedule. In this case, STP has indicated that its work days and hours could be adjusted to 24/7 if desired.
As owner of this project, one of WSDOT’s roles is to review the schedule to ensure it complies with the contract. We have asked STP to update its construction plan and provide an accurate representation of that plan in the schedule. As explained above, STP has an incentive to work to meet the contractual milestone of opening the tunnel to traffic by Jan. 2, 2016.