King County Executive calls for new contractor for LFP section of Brightwater tunnel

Monday, February 22, 2010

Declares emergency to prevent unreasonable cost increases and schedule delays

To protect the best interests of King County and its regional ratepayers, King County Executive Dow Constantine called for a change in the contractor building a problematic section of tunnel system on the Brightwater Treatment Plant project.

“While most elements of the Brightwater project are on schedule, I am extremely concerned about construction delays on a remaining two-mile segment of the outflow tunnel and am not confident that the current contractor can complete its construction in a timely manner,” said Executive Constantine. “We have an obligation to our ratepayers to pursue other alternatives, and that is what we are doing today.”

The Executive issued a declaration of emergency that will enable the county to waive procurement requirements and hire the West Tunnel contractor Jay Dee, Coluccio and Taisei (JCT) to complete construction of the remaining two miles of the central BT-3 tunnel "Rainier" which runs from Kenmore through Lake Forest Park under Ballinger Way to the Ballinger Portal.

The current Central Tunnel contractor Vinci, Parsons and Frontier-Kemper (VPFK) would remain under contract to complete the eastbound BT-2 tunnel "Helene" currently tunneling from Kenmore to Bothell.

The BT-3 Rainier tunnel is being built as part of the 13-mile-long Brightwater conveyance system that will carry treated wastewater from the treatment plant to a new outfall in Puget Sound. JCT is already working on Brightwater’s four-mile-long West Tunnel, "Elizabeth," through Shoreline from Point Wells to Ballinger, which is expected to be successfully completed in the next few weeks.

Construction on the two central tunnels, referred to as BT-2 and BT-3, Kenmore to Bothell and Kenmore to Ballinger, was temporarily suspended in May 2009, after inspections revealed extensive damage to the cutterhead rims on two tunnel boring machines.

The damage required complex repairs before additional mining could proceed. The repairs have pushed back the date of tunnel completion, though the Brightwater Treatment Plant itself remains on schedule to open in the fall of 2011. VPFK successfully repaired the BT-2 machine, nicknamed “Helene,” and tunnel construction resumed this week. BT-2 has completed about 1.5 miles of the 2.2-mile segment from Kenmore to Bothell.

VPFK estimates that an additional $98 million will be required for them to repair the second damaged machine and complete the BT-3 tunnel. King County staff estimates the project would not be completed until December 2013, resulting in a cost increase and a significant schedule delay that the Executive has deemed unacceptable.

“We believe JCT can complete this portion of the unfinished tunnel project at substantially lower cost and in significantly less time,” said Christie True, Director of the Wastewater Treatment Division of the King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks.

“Timely completion is critical to ensure our regional wastewater system has enough capacity to serve population growth, protect public health and the environment and support economic recovery as we emerge from a serious recession,” True said.

The BT-3 machine, nicknamed “Rainier,” began tunneling west from the Brightwater North Kenmore portal, located near the intersection of 80th Ave NE and NE 195th Street, in fall 2007. The machine is currently 330 feet underground and has completed about 1.9 miles of the nearly four-mile segment of tunnel that terminates at the Brightwater Ballinger Way portal, located just west of 19th Avenue Northeast in Shoreline's Ballinger business district.

King County project managers do not yet know the extent of the costs associated with the delays and repairs, or who will ultimately bear responsibility for any additional costs. Both issues will be subject to negotiation with the companies involved.

The King County Council must approve the extension of the waiver of competitive bidding for the change in contractor.


People enjoy clean water and a healthy environment because of King County's wastewater treatment program. The county’s Wastewater Treatment Division protects public health, the environment and the economy by serving 17 cities, 17 local sewer districts and more than 1.5 million residents in King, Snohomish and Pierce counties. Formerly called Metro, the regional clean-water agency now operated by King County has been preventing water pollution for nearly 50 years.

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