Not far from the most recognizable above-ground Seattle icon, the Highway 99 tunneling machine finished its 9,270-foot journey under watchful eyes this morning, as shown in our as-it-happened report earlier.
Photojournalist Christopher Boffoli was there for WSB and put together these video highlights:
If you noticed the drone – that was operated by WSDOT, which has since published this minute-long highlight reel:
So – now what? First: The tunneling machine, which arrived in pieces four years ago, will be taken away in pieces. After the cutterhead’s appearance this morning, removal of the braces began.
WSDOT elaborates on what’s ahead:
STP will disassemble the machine by cutting it into pieces. The pieces will be removed from the pit by crane and placed on trucks. Due to roadway restrictions, each truckload will weigh no more than 20 tons.
Some pieces of the machine may be reused on other tunneling projects, while others will be recycled. Because the machine is so large, removing it will likely take several months.
And then there’s a lot of work to be done inside the tunnel – digging it, and “building rings” along the way, was just the groundwork. This WSDOT post goes into details of what happens inside, from road-building to systems installation to testing and commissioning.
Once the tunnel is tied into the surface network, as recapped in the Viaduct/Tunnel FAQ (and discussed in WSB comments), here’s how Highway 99 is planned to connect to the south end of downtown:
Outside the tunnel, other matters remain unsettled. A big one: How much will the toll be? $1-vicinity recommendations were made three years ago. The Washington State Transportation Commission is charged with determining the final toll but there’s no date set for a vote yet. And of course you’ve heard a lot about court fights over cost overruns, mentioned again today in Seattle Times transportation reporter Mike Lindblom‘s look at what’s ahead. (Asked today about the cost overruns, Gov. Inslee said, ““There will be other days to talk about paying for this. We know that our State is going to be insistent that the contractor be financially responsible for the project. We have to get that resolved. I know that will be resolved. And I think there is reason for confidence that the State is going to be held harmless here.” Mayor Murray, asked about a legislator’s proposal to require the city to cover those costs, said today, ” I know we have our annual ‘Let’s bash Seattle’ down in Olympia every legislative session. But again it is a State project and the State will make sure it gets paid. And we will pay for the brand new park that will knit Seattle back to its waterfront.”)
Once the tunnel is open – that clears the way for the remainder of the Alaskan Way Viaduct, which opened 64 years ago today, to be torn down. It’s been more than five years since the south mile was demolished.