That’s an estimate made by the contractor Seattle Tunnel Partners BEFORE the recent discovery of “settling” in the area; WSDOT just disclosed the date today, as part of a general pre-holiday update. The update also says that while no new settling has been detected near the pit being built to retrieve the cutter head of the broken-down tunneling, machine, settling elsewhere “is greater and farther reaching than anticipated. Engineers are still evaluating whether other factors are involved that could explain the discrepancy. We will continue to conduct daily inspections of the viaduct and watch the survey data closely as STP moves forward with their work. As we write this, we’re on a conference call with other reporters and reps from WSDOT and STP – we’ll be adding more details shortly.
ADDED 3:19 PM: The conference call is over; from WSDOT, it included project executive Matt Preedy and spokesperson Laura Newborn, and from Seattle Tunnel Partners, executive Chris Dixon, plus local/regional/national reporters.
Among the many points of note:
-The August 2017 date that debuted today was described as coming from the “October update” by STP. We asked why it wasn’t mentioned before, not even during the official stakeholders’ briefing (at which we were the only news org on hand) in early December. STP explained that these updates – which WSDOT now plans to make public – take several weeks to assemble, so the “October update” is just being parsed now. (Which means, they acknowledged, we won’t know full details of the “November update” – which would still not include this month’s turbulence – until January, and so on.)
-The schedule will remain “dynamic,” said WSDOT’s Preedy, until the tunneling machine is back in operation. (In other words, even the new August 2017 date is nowhere near set in stone.)
-Excavation of the pull-the-cutter-head-out-for-repairs pit is on hold now for two weeks, and not expected to resume until early January. Digging stopped on Friday, about three days after WSDOT had said it could resume. Some non-structural pilings, explained in the official online update, are being pulled out before they start going to the next level. STP’s Dixon explained that digging had been done in stages, about six feet at a time, before an evaluation of where everything stood. At the completion of the most recent stage – to 90 feet in pit depth, aka “-74 in elevation” – they decided to pause for piling removal.
-Would it have been quicker, in hindsight, to approach the tunnel-machine repair project from the south/interior? STP insisted it’s happy with its choice to build the pit to try to hoist the cutter head out, even though it’s of a magnitude that has never been done before, given the machine’s record size, etc., and has “been more difficult than anticipated.”
-The settlement of the Viaduct itself, when recalculated as explained in the online update, will likely be a bit less than estimated, but the settlement causes in the area remain a mystery, and an investigation continues.
-As for the big issues – who pays for all this unanticipated work? – the state continues to point out that this is a “design-build contract” and that STP is expected to do whatever it takes to fulfill that. Pressed on certain specifics, WSDOT’s Preedy said he didn’t think it “appropriate for either party to speculate” on how it’s all going to be worked out.
-About the “70 percent complete” recent proclamation, today’s answer seemed to mostly boil down to, that’s the percentage STP has been paid.
P.S. To see the “October schedule” from which the August 2017 open-to-traffic projection was pulled, go here. WSDOT also has published the September schedule, which also seems to project that same month (albeit a couple weeks earlier than the Oct. “schedule”).