Bertha, 520 troubles hurt hopes for transportation-tax deal

The Seattle TimesJanuary 10, 2014 

On Monday, July 15, 2013, workers tow a 520 bridge pontoon from Lake Washington to Harbor Island (Elliot Bay) for dry dock repairs.

WSDOT

OLYMPIA — A proposed multibillion-dollar, transportation-tax package is as bogged down as Bertha, the tunnel-boring machine.

New obstacles to an agreement are piling up quickly, including a fight over who should pay for Bertha getting stuck while plowing a new underground path for Highway 99, cost overruns related to construction of the Highway 520 bridge, and a debate over a possible climate-change regulation.

The GOP-led majority in the Senate and the Democratic majority in the House have been trying for months to agree on a tax package that would increase the state gas tax by more than 10 cents a gallon and fund about $10 billion to $12 billion in transportation spending over the next 12 years, including expansions to Interstate 405 and Highway 167.

Lawmakers remain stuck on longstanding issues including stormwater treatment, sales taxes collected from transportation projects, and funding for public transportation.

But Seattle’s troubled megaprojects drew a lot of attention Thursday at an Associated Press forum that looked ahead to the legislative session that starts Monday.

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