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Inspection finds new cracks on viaduct; new report says no new funds needed for tunnel

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SEATTLE — The latest inspection of the Alaskan Way Viaduct found additional ground settlement, wider cracks and two new cracks on columns near the area where the Seattle Tunnel Partners are working to fix Bertha, the giant tunnel boring machine that is supposed to dig the highway tunnel to replace the viaduct along Seattle's waterfront.

Transportation officials say the double-decker bridge is safe for everyday use. They added new crack gauges and began focusing monitoring in these areas following the March 28 inspection. Survey crews measured 1/8 to 1/4 inch of additional settlement near Seneca Street. The new cracks were on columns near Yesler Way, officials said. Other crack measurements are stable.

The agency also released a report Tuesday that evaluated the $3.1 billion tunnel project, which is two years behind schedule.

The Expert Review Panel's April report says they continue to be confident that the project will be completed. They also said there doesn't appear to be a need for more state or local funds on top of the project's allocated budget.

Bertha broke down and stopped tunneling in December 2013. The contractor dug a 120-foot-deep pit to access the front of the machine. Late last week, crews lifted the front of the machine to the surface for repairs. They will continue the disassembly process in the coming days so the manufacturer can fix and enhance the machine, the agency said.

The expert panel charged with reviewing the project said the contractor made progress on the non-mining portion of the plan. They have almost finished the north and south end tunnel and work on the north and south portals, the report said.

But some funding appears to still be an issue.

The panel said funds are "potentially" available to cover the additional costs the project has incurred, including "various contractual contingency funds within the budget, insurance claims under existing policies and savings from post-tunnel projects."

But toll revenues are not secured, the panel said.

"The projections of toll rates and the resulting amount of bond proceeds available for the program are not sufficiently detailed to provide a sound basis for budgeting," the report said.

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