Slog, I need your help. I'm gonna try a bit of crowd-sourcing here—I've got a big document that you may be able to untangle.
First the background: Bertha the tunnel-boring machine has been stuck about 60 feet under downtown Seattle for more than seven weeks. Officials don't know why, exactly (maybe a metal pipe, maybe the soil conditions, etc.). This delay is in addition to another month-long digging delay last year during a labor dispute. Plus, when she was moving, Bertha didn't make much progress: She advanced only 24 feet in the first month. Officials say Bertha must eventually dig about 35 feet a day through the 1.7-mile route, but that schedule could be in jeopardy. This all raises the possibility of delays and cost overruns, which have been controversies for the $4.2 billion plan to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct with this underground freeway.
So how far behind schedule is the project?
I've asked Washington State Department of Transportation officials a half-dozen times to answer that question in plain English. They refuse to make any comment at all.
Given that delays and overruns on this project, the most expensive in Seattle history, are of pretty widespread interest, I requested records from WSDOT that would show the schedule as proposed in July, when digging began. The records division fulfilled my request with a 476-page document that breaks down milestones, schedules, costs, and lots of other info about the project. In theory, the answer is in there (maybe in sections R11 or R12), because I specifically asked for the tunnel-boring machine's schedule during construction. But it's very detailed and technical. Lacking an expert or hours and hours to peruse it (I've got a ton of other work on my plate), I'm just posting the whole thing on Slog to see if you folks can parse the codes and jargon.
Here's the doc.
These are my questions: At what date was Bertha supposed to be her current location, about 1,000 feet into the route (for example, October 20, 2013)? And what location was Bertha supposed to be at by this date (for example, 2,000 feet into the route)?
"I really and truly don't know what the answer is," said WSDOT spokeswoman Laura Newborn when I asked her those questions again today. She acknowledged "nobody was expecting to be down for the count this long." I've requested WSDOT put me in touch with one of the experts working on the project to help answer the questions, but I'm not holding my breath (WSDOT has never been terribly forthcoming with bad news about this project).
Folks who think they have found the answer—or other interesting info, or suggestions for other records I should request—post it in comments or send me an e-mail. Have fun!