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Bertha overruns up to $223 million, tunnel opening delayed until 2019

Bertha was originally supposed to be surface in South Lake Union in October 2014 and the tunnel was supposed to open by the end of 2015

Oh Bertha, you were doing so well. You navigated the Alaskan Way Viaduct ahead of schedule. You were only stopping for maintenance breaks. You had the wind at your back and momentum at your side. We had totally forgotten about the insane stoppage and costly repairs that had delayed the project for years.

And then WSDOT had to go and ruin it all.

Tunnel-machine Bertha’s two-year breakdown will cost Washington state an estimated $223 million in cost overruns, and delay the Highway 99 tunnel grand opening even more — now until early 2019, lawmakers were told Thursday.

As a reminder, Bertha was originally supposed to be surface in South Lake Union in October 2014 and the tunnel was supposed to open by the end of 2015.

That $223 million overruns number includes $60 million that has yet to be accounted for and is part of the reason WSDOT spoke with lawmakers.

"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," Washington State Department of Transportation staff said in a written statement.

"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."

Where’s all that extra money going to come from? Likely gas taxes, tolls or other transportation-related fees. It should also be noted that STP’s parent company has made it’s living legally-wrangling its way out of paying for overages elsewhere.