July 21 project update: The path to program completion

Posted on Jul 21 2016 1:22 PM

The first half of 2016 has seen exceptional progress on the SR 99 Tunnel Project. Since tunneling resumed in late December of 2015, Seattle Tunnel Partners crews have mined an additional 2,100 feet. One-third of the tunnel is constructed, and crews inside the tunnel are hard at work building the future highway. Progress is also visible at the north and south portals, where the tunnel operations buildings, and many of the future ramp and highway connections, are nearing completion.

WSDOT’s focus is on delivering the entire Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement Program, comprised of 31 projects. It has been nearly a decade since we broke ground on our first project. Since then, we have successfully completed 21 of those projects, and half of the viaduct has been demolished and replaced. 

At the north portal, Atkinson Construction is in the final stages of the North Access Project, which is building the highway connections to the tunnel near the Space Needle.

At the south portal, crews from Interwest Construction are preparing to start work on a newly-awarded contract to build a bridge near the stadiums that will serve as the northbound exit from SR 99 after the tunnel opens to traffic.

Moving forward

We are on the path to completion. After resuming tunneling, STP updated their schedule, allowing us to do a preliminary review of the overall program schedule and budget.

As anyone who follows our work is aware, the tunnel project is delayed, which has led to additional WSDOT costs. For example, there are costs for contract administration and oversight. The costs to acquire right of way along the tunnel alignment have also been higher than originally projected, in part because of the need to extend agreements and leases. Upcoming construction projects, such as demolishing the viaduct, will have additional costs due to the tunneling delay.

The legislatively-approved budget for the program is $3.1 billion. Based on our preliminary review, what we anticipate today is a 1.8 percent budget increase, or a cash-flow need of up to $60 million in the 2017-2019 biennium, to ensure continued progress.

Looking toward completion of the viaduct replacement program, we estimate a total provisional budget need of $223 million. That reflects a potential increase of 6.6 percent. These are preliminary estimates and we will continue to refine them as work progresses.

Next steps

WSDOT has notified the Washington State Legislature of the program’s cash flow needs for the 2017-2019 budget cycle and will work with the Legislature through the budgeting process. Our immediate focus is addressing the up to $60 million needed as a result of the tunneling delay.  The next 18 months of construction will tell us a great deal about the program’s funding needs beyond the current biennium.

“We remain committed to completing this important safety project while also protecting taxpayers,” said Roger Millar, Acting Transportation Secretary, “We will continue to follow the terms of the design-build contract to recover the added costs that are due to the delay of the project.” 

This includes pursuing insurance claims, identifying potential cost savings in other elements of the program and ongoing litigation to recover damages. If efforts to recover costs are successful, the funds would likely not be available until after the project is complete.

We will continue to provide additional details about the program’s budget needs as the 2017 legislative session approaches. In the meantime, our focus will remain where it always has: on delivering the tunnel and replacing the Alaskan Way Viaduct for the people of Washington.

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