Dave Ross:.....Bruce, I think it's fair to say that the whole tunnel idea was dead until you guys resuscitated it.
Bruce Agnew: Well, we did bring some international experts who'd had experience in building tunnels in Shanghai, Madrid, and North America and they told us that the tunnel would be around a billion dollars and I agree with the Governor. The DOT added a 27% contingency, and they're currently at $1.9B for the tunnel. So if you look at worldwide experience in tunneling and advances in technology, the Governor's figures are absolutely correct. The other important factor is that the DOT decided to go with a single bore versus a double bore, which means less labor, less materials and one machine versus two....(Additionally) Sound Transit's bids on the Beacon Hill transit tunnel came in about 22% below estimate and just, I think it was last week, San Francisco BART's bids on a tunnel came in at 45% below the engineering bids and there were five bidders. So there's a very hungry environment for contractors and the sooner we get this bored machine going, the better we're going to be.
Dave Ross: As you've mentioned, there have been deep-bored tunnels done before, in Beacon Hill, yes. But in Beacon Hill, that's mainly residential. There are no gigantic buildings you're going under for that tunnel. Has it ever been done? Has a tunnel this large ever been bored under a major urban area before?
Bruce Agnew: Absolutely. Shanghai, Madrid, Paris. They're looking at a deep-bored tunnel for a Port of Miami and the I-710 freeway in Los Angeles.That's why I think the DOT and the project team came around on this is because they got the information about the 20 projects that are currently underway around the world and those that have been completed on time and on budget. The average costs of those was somewhere around 350 million dollars a mile so even if you take a look at the DOT's budget, which estimates it would be about 1.17 billion per tunnel-mile, there's a lot of fudge factor built into that.
Bruce Agnew:....the other point I would make to your listeners is that you've got to take a look at the history of our state DOT in the last five to ten years in terms of bringing projects in on time and on budget. You look at the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, the I-5 widening in Everett which were built under a new design-build procedure which brings in the talent of the private sector early on. Those are good examples, albeit they're highway projects, but they're good examples of the management of this DOT in terms of (completing within budget) these projects and that story isn't told enough, I think.
Dave Ross: You are complimenting the DOT on bringing things in on...You're a conservative think tank, right?
Bruce Agnew: Well yes, so we applaud government efficiency. And as someone who has a beach cabin up north in Snohomish County, I go through Everett all the time and it's just remarkable what that widening project has done in terms of traffic flow through Everett. It's great to see that.
Full transcriptAudio of full interview12/08 - 4/09 Tunnel News & Opinion Read More ›