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Inslee says digging to resume soon.
OLYMPIA — The longshoremen's union removed pickets from the site of Seattle's tunnel dig this morning at the request of Gov. Jay Inslee, which could allow the digging to resume in a few days.
The work stoppage on one of the state's major transportation projects was threatening to undermine any public support for a possible package of tax increases for road maintenance and new projects being discussed at hearings around the state by the Senate Transportation Committee, Inlee said.
The governor announced this morning at a press conference that the International Longshore and Warehouse Union agreed to remove its pickets for an undetermined amount of time while negotiations continue on a labor dispute. The ILWU contends that some jobs loading dirt being removed from the tunnel and loaded onto barges for transport should be performed by its members.
The pickets had stopped work on the tunnel being dug by “Bertha”, a drill boring a 57.5-foot hole under the Seattle waterfront, to replace the Alaska Way Viaduct.
“Bertha will soon be back in business,” Inslee said. “This had gone on long enough.”
The pickets came down as “a sign of good faith” after Inslee met with union officials and contractors. A solution to the dispute has not yet been found.
Inslee's spokesman David Postman said the governor suggested removing the pickets and union officials agreed. The union set no deadline for an agreement before resuming the pickets, and is expected to call Inslee before resuming the action.
(Editor's Note: Because of incorrect information supplied, an earlier version of this post contained an incorrect diameter measurement of the hole being bored under the Seattle waterfront.)