So here’s a question I haven’t heard asked, let alone answered, throughout the contentious debate over who pays cost overruns on the Big Bore tunnel.
If, for example, the tunnel boring machine gets stuck, as happened with Brightwater, and if the contractor is unable to get it moving again, as happened with Brightwater, and if we’re forced to bring in a new contractor at an expense of hundreds of millions of dollars above the original bid, as happened with Brightwater… who is going to write the checks?
Am not asking who will ultimately pay for the cost overruns; that’s what everybody is fighting over. But rather, who will pay the new contractor, in the short term, to complete the job?
Will the state, who is responsible for digging the tunnel, fork over the cash, and then attempt to collect from Seattle taxpayers later? Or, at the point when cost overruns become an actual reality, will the state halt work on the project until Seattle somehow comes up with the cash? I mean, obviously, no contractor is going to start a multi-hundred million dollar job on promises that they’ll be paid eventually… you know, once the city and the state and the original contractor finish years of litigation.
With the legislature insisting that the city is responsible, and the city insisting that the cost overrun provision is unenforceable, and the governor insisting that there won’t be any cost overruns — and the whole project under-bonded by more than half — isn’t there a potential cash flow problem here should the worst happen? And isn’t this the sorta thing we should settle before we sign all the contracts?
I’m just askin’.