Just in case you’re not sure: The Alaskan Way Viaduct will be open tomorrow. Highway 99 north of there won’t.

August 24, 2014 at 9:49 pm | In Alaskan Way Viaduct, West Seattle news | 6 Comments

With some simply describing the Highway 99 work as a “4-day closure,” here’s a reminder: For the part most used by West Seattleites, it’s not. The Alaskan Way Viaduct WILL reopen by 5 am Monday, WSDOT says (as will 99 between the AWV and West Seattle Bridge). What will NOT be open (yet) is Highway 99 north of The Viaduct – from the Battery St. Tunnel north to Valley Street on Lower Queen Anne, as shown here:

That section is supposed to remain closed for bridge work until early Wednesday. Though The Viaduct will be open again, it’s still wise to avoid it if you can, since anyone still on 99 past Seneca will have to exit at Western, and that’s likely to back things up. South of there, state crews spent the weekend closure replacing concrete panels; WSDOT’s latest update says, “The final concrete has been poured on these new panels and will cure overnight. Drivers should experience a smoother ride in SODO during Monday morning’s commute.” We’ll be monitoring morning traffic here as usual, with live cameras in our daily update as well as on the WSB Traffic page.

Another traffic alert: Nighttime lane closures on Highway 99

August 18, 2014 at 6:58 pm | In Alaskan Way Viaduct, West Seattle news | Comments Off

Before we get to this weekend’s big Highway 99/Alaskan Way Viaduct closure (which continues north of the Viaduct for two days beyond that, WSDOT has announced some nighttime lane closures this week for prep work, starting tonight. Here’s the alert:

Drivers who use State Route 99 through Seattle’s SODO district should plan ahead for possible nighttime delays this week.

Contractor crews working for the Washington State Department of Transportation will close up to two lanes in both directions between Spokane and Atlantic streets nightly for pavement rehabilitation work.

The southbound lanes will begin closing at 9 p.m., and the northbound lanes will begin closing at 10 p.m. All lanes will be open by 5 a.m.

In addition to the weeknight closures, the eastbound West Seattle Bridge off-ramp to northbound SR 99 will close from 10 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 21 until 5 a.m. Friday, Aug. 22.

The work will help prepare the roadway for the upcoming weekend closure of SR 99 in which 81 damaged concrete panels will either be repaired or replaced. The $10.08 million project on the south end of the Alaskan Way Viaduct will extend the life of SR 99 and provide a smoother, safer ride for drivers.

Traffic-alert reminder: Viaduct/99 closure NEXT weekend

August 16, 2014 at 7:52 am | In Alaskan Way Viaduct, West Seattle news, West Seattle traffic alerts | 5 Comments

While everything is status quo with the Alaskan Way Viaduct/Highway 99 north of the West Seattle Bridge THIS weekend, WSDOT reminds you that won’t be case by this time NEXT weekend. The map above shows the planned closure – for various reasons you can read about here – starting 10 pm next Friday night, August 22, with the exception of two access points for traffic exiting the Seahawks game until midnight. By Monday morning, August 25th, the WS Bridge-to-Battery St. Tunnel section should reopen, but the tunnel-to-Valley St. section will stay closed two more days:

Again, that all starts NEXT Friday night. And we’ll be reminding you daily in our regular WSB traffic coverage between now and then.

West Seattle traffic alert: New details about Highway 99 closure next month

July 11, 2014 at 3:09 pm | In Alaskan Way Viaduct, West Seattle news, West Seattle traffic alerts | Comments Off

In June, we reported on WSDOT’s plan to close part of Highway 99 (including the Alaskan Way Viaduct) in late August for repair work. Today, new details are out – see them here – since WSDOT has locked in more details. Key points: 99 will be closed both ways from the West Seattle Bridge to Valley Street from late Friday night, August 22nd, until early Monday morning, August 25th; the section from the WS Bridge to the Battery Street Tunnel will reopen then, but the stretch north to Valley will remain closed until Wednesday, August 27th.

P.S. If you have questions about ongoing Highway 99 work, including (or not) the tunnel, WSDOT has a booth here at West Seattle Summer Fest, all weekend long.

Early warning: Alaskan Way Viaduct repair closure in late August

June 24, 2014 at 1:03 pm | In Alaskan Way Viaduct, West Seattle news, West Seattle traffic alerts | 3 Comments

ORIGINAL TUESDAY REPORT: New information today about a full Alaskan Way Viaduct closure coming up later this summer. It was mentioned – without a date – when WSDOT‘s Secretary Lynn Peterson and Todd Trepanier spoke to the West Seattle Transportation Coalition earlier this month (WSB coverage here); Trepanier talked about keeping The Viaduct in good shape for its remaining years of usage, and noted a repair closure was ahead. Then this past weekend, chatting at the Morgan Junction Community Festival, Pete Spalding, a West Seattleite on the “stakeholders’ group” that WSDOT convenes quarterly, told us the group had just been given a specific date. We have now confirmed it via WSDOT spokesperson Laura Newborn:

WSDOT will be replacing or repairing 81 concrete panels on SR 99 between Forest and Holgate during the weekend of August 23. These panels are aging and as a result are cracked, potholed, and some have failed and need to be completely replaced.

The panel work and additional work needed on the North Access portion of the tunnel project will require a closure of SR 99 in both directions from the West Seattle Bridge to Valley Street, just north of the Battery Street Tunnel. We will have more specific details when the work plan is finalized, but your readers should note that SR 99 will be closed from the bridge to the tunnel on the weekend of August 23.

That day is a Saturday; the yet-to-come details, of course, will include specific start and end times. More details about the repair project are here.

ADDED WEDNESDAY MORNING: As a postscript, an update from WSDOT with a few more details, including plans for the north portion of the closure to extend past the weekend:

WSDOT will be replacing concrete panels on SR 99 in SODO and rebuilding SR 99 where it crosses Broad Street north of the Battery Street Tunnel. To complete this work, crews will close SR 99 in both directions between South Spokane Street and Valley Street the weekend of Aug. 23 and 24. Work on SR 99 north of the Battery Street Tunnel will continue on Monday and Tuesday, Aug. 25 and 26. We are still finalizing the timing and location of this closure and will share information with the public as soon as we have it.

Traffic-alert update: Northbound 99 open again

June 22, 2014 at 4:03 pm | In Alaskan Way Viaduct, West Seattle news, West Seattle traffic alerts | Comments Off

4:03 PM: Thanks to West Seattle Hipster for the tip – confirmed via WSDOT tweet – Northbound 99/Alaskan Way Viaduct has reopened between here and the Western Avenue offramp. But it’s still closed from Battery St. to Valley St., so if you’re heading beyond Belltown (etc.), you’ll still have to detour.

7:08 PM: 99 is fully open, says WSDOT.

How Highway 99 tunnel machine will be dug up, broken down, put back underground

June 16, 2014 at 1:57 pm | In Alaskan Way Viaduct, Transportation, West Seattle news | 36 Comments

Just last week at the West Seattle Transportation Coalition‘s monthly meeting (WSB coverage here), top WSDOT executives answered a few questions about the stalled tunnel machine and its pending repairs. Today, the contractor, Seattle Tunnel Partners, is out with its official repair plan, and animation (above) showing what’ll happen during its phases. According to the timeline toward the end of the plan, they’re still expecting to resume tunneling in late March of next year.

Viaduct closures, tunnel travails, and more: State transportation boss Lynn Peterson @ West Seattle Transportation Coalition

June 11, 2014 at 12:33 pm | In Alaskan Way Viaduct, Transportation, West Seattle news | 14 Comments

(WSB video of the entire WSTC appearance by WSDOT’s Secretary Lynn Peterson and Todd Trepanier)
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

The West Seattle Transportation Coalition usually has something topical to discuss at its monthly meetings, with no shortage of transportation-related challenges lately.

For example, last night, the southbound Alaskan Way Viaduct had been closed for five hours because of a crash investigation when the WSTC meeting began. Coincidentally, the long-scheduled guest was the woman in charge of the Viaduct and other state highways – Transportation Secretary Lynn Peterson.

In her second year on the job, she offered lots of background information and big-picture observations, but the discussion invariably turned its most intense focus on the Viaduct Replacement Project and the present/future of the stalled tunneling work. In Q&A, she also addressed other topics such as whether any Fauntleroy-bound ferries would be diverted downtown, since much of the vehicle traffic heads that way anyway.

Click to read the rest of Viaduct closures, tunnel travails, and more: State transportation boss Lynn Peterson @ West Seattle Transportation Coalition…

Highway 99 tunnel trouble: ‘See’ Bertha and the repair timeline

May 14, 2014 at 9:00 am | In Alaskan Way Viaduct, Transportation, West Seattle news | 43 Comments

9 AM: For all the talk about the stuck Highway 99 tunnel machine, we’ve had a tough time visualizing exactly where it is. A new set of a dozen renderings made public by the state has fixed that. It’s part of a new online update from WSDOT; at the lower right of the rendering shown above, that’s Pier 50, where the West Seattle and Vashon Water Taxis dock downtown. Work has begun underground on the 120-foot-deep “access pit,” according to the WSDOT update – scroll through the renderings to see how that is supposed to unfold. The WSDOT update also points to an added webcam showing the work zone on the surface (top right of this page). Bottom line, though, no change in the timeline, which still projects that tunneling will resume in/by “late March 2015.”

12:23 PM: We followed up with WSDOT regarding some questions that came up in comments. Spokesperson Laura Newborn says the utility-relocation cost is part of the repair work and: “The cost associated with the entire fix, is, in WSDOT’s opinion, STP’s responsibility. Seattle City Light and Seattle Public Utilities have done a remarkable job in helping us relocate these utilities, which should be wrapped up by next week.”

Highway 99 tunnel machine won’t dig again before March 2015

April 21, 2014 at 3:13 pm | In Alaskan Way Viaduct, West Seattle news | 76 Comments

In case you haven’t heard – there’s new timetable for getting the Highway 99 tunnel going again. Digging is expected to resume in “late March 2015,” according to the latest update from WSDOT’s contractor Seattle Tunnel Partners. That would be 15 months after the tunnel machine’s December 2013 stall. At one point, the tunnel was supposed to open by the end of 2015. The state says 2016 might still be possible.

Speaking of road work: New info on tunnel-machine repairs, including a wall you’ll soon see

April 3, 2014 at 5:34 pm | In Alaskan Way Viaduct, West Seattle news | 31 Comments

Though it’s a state project, Mayor Ed Murray brought up the Highway 99 tunnel trouble during his keynote speech at the West Seattle Chamber of Commerce awards breakfast today (full story, with video, in the works). “Bertha is broken,” he noted, and said that if he had to make a guess, he’d say the tunneling won’t resume for at least 9 months. Later in the day, WSDOT published an update on the preparations for tunneling-machine repairs, including:

Drivers on SR 99 in Seattle will soon see a noise-blocking wall rise out of the ground near the spot where crews will dig a pit to reach and repair Bertha, the SR 99 tunneling machine. The double-plywood wall, which will be as tall as the lower deck of the Alaskan Way Viaduct, is designed to shield neighbors from construction noise associated with the repairs. It will stretch along the west side of the viaduct between South Jackson and South Main streets. Construction of the wall should take about two weeks.
WSDOT also published some conceptual renderings of what’s in the works; see them here. The tunnel contractor, says the state, is still finalizing the repair plan.

West Seattle traffic-alert update: Highway 99 open again

March 22, 2014 at 7:08 pm | In Alaskan Way Viaduct, West Seattle news, West Seattle traffic alerts | 3 Comments

(“Live” cam at south end of remaining elevated AWV, from the WSB Traffic page)
The Alaskan Way Viaduct “follow-up inspection” is over and Highway 99 is open again, WSDOT has confirmed. From its announcement:

… During today’s inspection, WSDOT engineers took a closer look of areas previously covered in ivy on the 60-year-old highway and installed monitoring devices to gather data over several weeks.

Next steps: Late-night drivers could see some single-lane closures in coming weeks, while repair crews fill cracks with epoxy.

It will take months for engineers to analyze the information from the newly installed monitoring devices, which could shed more light on the cause of the cracking along the elevated highway and if a more robust fix is needed.

P.S. The SDOT Blog website featured some interesting background this week on AWV traffic volume and why the numbers seem to have changed recently.

West Seattle traffic alert: No 99 closure tonight; latest on Saturday’s Alaskan Way Viaduct closure

March 18, 2014 at 1:01 pm | In Alaskan Way Viaduct, Transportation, West Seattle news | 2 Comments

Two traffic updates, both about Highway 99 closures: First, WSDOT‘s Kris Olsen tells WSB there will be NO 99 closure tonight – the next one is tentatively scheduled for 9 pm Wednesday night-5 am Thursday, East Marginal to Atlantic for Spokane St. Overcrossing re-striping/realignment. Also, WSDOT’s Laura Newborn confirms that the time frame for Saturday’s Alaskan Way Viaduct inspection-followup closure is 4:30 am-7 pm.

Viaduct to close March 22nd for ‘follow-up inspection’ after cracks found

March 10, 2014 at 10:47 am | In Alaskan Way Viaduct, Transportation, West Seattle news | 15 Comments

Alaskan Way Viaduct - Column 79B Top N Face

(WSDOT photo, added 3:27 pm)
WSDOT has just announced results of the recent Alaskan Way Viaduct inspection, and says they’ll need a followup inspection as a result:

Washington State Department of Transportation bridge engineers have scheduled an additional in-depth inspection of the State Route 99 Alaskan Way Viaduct on Saturday, March 22.

During the viaduct’s most recent inspection on March 1, engineers observed new cracks, as well as movement and widening of existing cracks along girders and supports near Spring and Seneca streets. While the viaduct remains safe for travel, engineers need a second inspection to gather more information about the cracks before they can make repairs. The inspection requires a one-day closure that will take place Saturday, March 22. Details of the closure will be available soon.

During the March 22 inspection, engineers will conduct an in-depth evaluation of the area, perform tests to determine how the cracks respond to heavy loads on the viaduct, and look for other issues. They will also install monitoring devices on the columns to track the movement and growth of the cracks over time. They will use this data to help identify potential repairs. If additional work is needed, such as filling the cracks with epoxy, further closures will be required.

This section of the viaduct is more than a half-mile north of the current location of the SR 99 tunneling machine. While the cause of these cracks is still to be determined, it is not related to tunneling activity.

No other significant changes to the viaduct were observed during the March 1 inspection. …

Read the entire news release here; see the Viaduct’s inspection history here.

West Seattle traffic alert: Viaduct will NOT close again Sunday, but …

March 1, 2014 at 7:22 pm | In Alaskan Way Viaduct, West Seattle news | 1 Comment

Inspection work on Highway 99 between the West Seattle Bridge and the south end of the Battery Street Tunnel is done for the weekend, so that stretch will NOT close again on Sunday. We just confirmed that with WSDOT spokesperson Laura Newborn. However, until about noon Sunday, 99 will remain closed north of the tunnel – until 6 am, to Valley Street for construction work, and then for the rest of the morning, to the Woodland Park Zoo area for the Hot Chocolate 15/5K.

Reminder: Highway 99/Alaskan Way Viaduct closures under way

March 1, 2014 at 7:57 am | In Alaskan Way Viaduct, West Seattle news, West Seattle traffic alerts | 1 Comment

(More cams, and other info, on the WSB Traffic Cameras page)
The orange sign in that “live” view of the eastbound West Seattle Bridge is a reminder that until 6 pm, Highway 99 is closed both ways from here to Valley Street. At 6 pm, the stretch between the bridge and the south end of the Battery Street Tunnel reopens, but the closure zone north of that continues; at 6 am tomorrow, the bridge-to-Battery-St. section closes again until 6 pm Sunday, and in the middle of that, the Sunday morning closure extends to Woodland Park Zoo because of the Hot Chocolate 5K. Got all that? It’s all explained here. Metro reroutes can be found here. During all this, the viaduct gets its twice-yearly inspection, and the results will be out later in the week.

TRAFFIC/TRANSIT TODAY: Friday updates; weekend 99 closures

February 28, 2014 at 6:57 am | In Alaskan Way Viaduct, West Seattle news, West Seattle traffic alerts | 2 Comments

(More cams, and other info, on the WSB Traffic Cameras page)
Good morning! One note for the Friday morning commute – a crash investigation on 4th Avenue S. at Bennett in Georgetown (map); our friends at KING 5 say the closure is between Dawson and Lucile. Otherwise, one major weekend reminder:

HIGHWAY 99/ALASKAN WAY VIADUCT WEEKEND CLOSURES: Saturday and Sunday, 6 am-6 pm both days, the twice-yearly inspection will close Highway 99/Alaskan Way Viaduct between the West Seattle Bridge and Battery Street Tunnel. But if you drive 99 north of there, you need to know that both directions will be closed from the tunnel north to Valley Street from 10 pm tonight to 6 am Sunday for more work – and then from 6 am to 11 am Sunday, the closure will stretch further north for a 5K run. WSDOT explains it all here. For Metro reroutes resulting from the closure – go here.

9:06 AM: From the scanner – stalled/broken-down vehicle blocking the bus lane and part of another lane on northbound 99 at Lander.

10:26 AM: And now from the scanner, a stalled vehicle blocking at least one lane on the eastbound West Seattle Bridge near/at the Delridge onramp. Also, Debora mentions a stall on the northbound Viaduct’s right lane in the stadiums, causing a backup; not sure if that’s the same one we mentioned at 9:06 am, but you are now forewarned, if you’re heading that way any time soon.

Why you’ll need a cheat-sheet for next weekend’s Highway 99/Alaskan Way Viaduct closure

February 23, 2014 at 1:36 am | In Alaskan Way Viaduct, West Seattle news, West Seattle traffic alerts | 4 Comments

(TUESDAY UPDATE: SDOT has added more details to its rundown of what’s happening)

Next weekend’s Alaskan Way Viaduct/Highway 99 closure – NOT related to the tunnel trouble, just the semi-annual inspection closure – is NOT the basic “entire stretch from Battery Street Tunnel to West Seattle Bridge closed from late Friday to early Monday” scenario. Here’s how next weekend will break down, according to WSDOT:

Friday, Feb. 28 – Sunday, March 2

Both directions of SR 99 will be closed between Valley Street and the south end of the Battery Street Tunnel from 10 p.m. Friday to 6 a.m. Saturday.

Both directions of SR 99 will be closed between Valley Street and South Spokane Street from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday.

Both directions of SR 99 will be closed between Valley Street and the south end of the Battery Street Tunnel from 6 p.m. Saturday to 6 a.m. Sunday.

Both directions of SR 99 will be closed between North 48th Street and South Spokane Street from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. Sunday.

Both directions of SR 99 will be closed between Denny Way and South Spokane Street from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.

Early warning: Next Highway 99/Viaduct closure Feb. 28-March 3

February 15, 2014 at 7:16 pm | In Alaskan Way Viaduct, West Seattle news, West Seattle traffic alerts | Comments Off

If you like planning ahead – note that the next full-weekend Highway 99/Alaskan Way Viaduct inspection closure is on the schedule, though not formally announced yet: According to the Construction Lookahead page jointly published by SDOT and WSDOT, it’s two weeks away – late Friday night February 28th, through early Monday morning March 3rd. Again, this is the regular twice-yearly inspection closure, not related to the tunnel construction.

Highway 99 tunnel trouble: Front-end repair access likely

February 14, 2014 at 1:29 pm | In Alaskan Way Viaduct, Transportation, West Seattle news | 15 Comments

If you’re following the saga of the Highway 99 tunnel-machine trouble – another update this afternoon, including word it’s likely that a dig from the surface will be needed so the machine can be fixed from its front end:

Seattle Tunnel Partners (STP) informed WSDOT today that they expect to receive a plan on potential repairs to the SR 99 tunneling machine from the machine’s manufacturer Hitachi Zosen by the end of this month. This will include a schedule for how long the repair work would take. Earlier this week, STP told us the plan may be completed by the end of the week, but said today more time is needed for the Hitachi to prepare it.

It appears likely that repairs will be made by digging a shaft from the surface so the machine can be entered from the front. Entering the back of the machine would require removal of more equipment and likely take longer. STP will begin work next week on the design of the shaft so if that option is selected, some of the necessary work will already be underway.

This past Monday, as reported here and elsewhere, we got first word it will be “months” before tunneling can resume. The tunnel originally was expected to open by the end of 2015, with Viaduct demolition following its opening; no schedule revision’s been announced yet.

No more Highway 99 tunneling any time soon: Repairs ‘will take months,’ state update says

February 10, 2014 at 8:57 pm | In Alaskan Way Viaduct, West Seattle news | 66 Comments

(WSDOT graphic showing how much tunneling had been done before the machine stopped December 6th)
Tonight for the first time, the state says it’ll be “months” before Highway 99 tunneling resumes. WSDOT published this update tonight:

This evening Seattle Tunnel Partners (STP) informed WSDOT and responded to a media inquiry that it is still conferring with its experts to determine how to repair or replace the broken seals surrounding the main bearing of the SR 99 tunneling machine.

Replacing the seals is a complicated process and STP is working closely with Hitachi Zosen, the tunneling machine’s manufacturer, to determine the best path forward. They are looking at two ways to access the seal area: through the back of the machine or by drilling an access shaft from the surface in front of the machine. Either way, this process will take months. They expect to make a decision by the end of the week, and once they do, we will share that information with the public.

STP has not yet fully determined the cause of the seal problems and to date, they have not shown any evidence that suggests the state or taxpayers will be responsible for cost overruns associated with these repairs. We have requested and expect detailed plans on how the repairs will be made and how STP can recover lost time on the tunneling project.

Since the machine is stopped and repairs need to be made, STP has also informed the City of Seattle that they can proceed with seawall replacement construction near the machine’s current location.

This update follows one on Friday detailing what was believed to have brought the machine to a stop two months ago. The tunnel originally was supposed to open at the end of next year.

Highway 99 tunnel update: A few more feet, then too much heat

January 31, 2014 at 11:27 am | In Alaskan Way Viaduct, West Seattle news | 17 Comments

Another notable update this morning from WSDOT regarding the Highway 99 tunneling machine: It did go a few more feet this week – and then “above-normal temperature readings in part of the machinery” led to a decision to stop it, again. So now what? Says the update: “Over the next week, outside tunneling experts brought in by WSDOT will meet with the WSDOT and STP project teams to review the situation and determine the best path forward.”

Highway 99 tunnel machine resuming work this week, WSDOT says

January 27, 2014 at 7:54 pm | In Alaskan Way Viaduct, Transportation, West Seattle news | 29 Comments

Though they’re still not saying what exactly shut down the Highway 99 tunnel machine – the pipe, the boulders, or something else – tonight WSDOT has announced that it expects tunneling to resume this week. According to tonight’s update, it’ll go two more feet, and then will stop for evaluation. If it gets the green light to continue after that, the next milestone is 500 feet down the line, where it would be stopped for maintenance before going under the Alaskan Way Viaduct – which, as first reported here last April, is expected to be closed while the tunnel machine crosses underneath. The machine has been stopped for seven weeks.

What will the Highway 99 tunnel tolls be? Draft recommendations focusing on $1 to $1.25

January 15, 2014 at 9:12 pm | In Alaskan Way Viaduct, West Seattle news | 29 Comments

While WSDOT and its contractor deal with the issue of why the Highway 99 tunnel machine is stalled and how to get it unstalled – another matter is moving forward: Deciding how the tunnel will be tolled. The committee working on the issue met Tuesday afternoon, somewhat overshadowed by a major transportation announcement made elsewhere, so we followed up today.

The materials from the meeting are now available online. A final recommendation won’t be voted on until next month’s committee meeting, but right now, this slide deck and this text document lay out the case for this potential draft recommendation: $1 midday, overnight and weekends; $1.25 during peak periods, 6-9 am and 3-6 pm weekdays. To reduce “diversion,” they’re also looking at dropping it to 75 cents in the off-peak daytime hours, with a possible one-hour extension to weekday pm peak.

This would raise $1 billion over 30 years. Here’s how that might break out:

The committee is described as concerned with the cost of collecting the tolls – fully a third of what they bring in. And it’s looking at other ways to discourage diversion, including recommending studies of “regional tolling.” This may still evolve between now and next month’s meeting, February 19th.

Highway 99 tunnel: What’s being done to get Bertha unstuck

January 7, 2014 at 9:32 pm | In Alaskan Way Viaduct, Transportation, West Seattle news | 40 Comments

Objects encountered by the SR 99 tunneling machine

(Photos courtesy WSDOT, shared via Flickr)
That’s one of three photos WSDOT shared late today along with an update on what’s being done to figure out how to get “Bertha,” the Highway 99 tunnel machine, going again, one month after it got stuck. The update says the steel and boulder are some of the items that passed through Bertha and onto its conveyor belt before it stopped moving forward in early December; this section of pipe was removed, too. They still aren’t sure the widely reported pipe is the whole problem. So they’re drilling to continue investigating, as you might have noticed to the west what’s left of the Alaskan Way Viaduct:

SR 99 tunnel crews drilling to look for obstruction

Read the entire update here. What this will cost in terms of time and money has not yet been determined, since they say they don’t know yet what it’ll take to get tunneling back on track, but KIRO TV quotes the state Transportation Director as suggesting the tunnel contractor could be held responsible for not clearing the way first.

Tunnel-trouble update: Crews think they’ve found at least part of what’s blocking Bertha

January 3, 2014 at 3:06 pm | In Alaskan Way Viaduct, West Seattle news | 40 Comments

While WSDOT says they’re not saying this is the only thing that stopped the tunnel-boring machine four weeks ago – they’ve gone public this afternoon with a discovery. No, not a huge boulder, or train car, or UFO, or whatever your favorite guess might have been. According to this brand-new update, they have found a pipe that was submerged by WSDOT itself more than a decade ago. From the update:

On Jan. 2, the water pressure was low enough and enough soil was removed from the excavation chamber to inspect the top 15 feet of the chamber.

This inspection showed an 8-inch-diameter steel pipe protruding through one of the many openings in the cutterhead. We believe the steel pipe is a well casing installed by WSDOT in 2002 after the 2001 Nisqually earthquake to better understand how groundwater flows through this area. The location of this pipe was included in reference materials in the contract.

We also believe at least some of the obstructions found by the exploratory holes are pieces of the 2002 steel pipe, which could be a contributing factor in the delay of boring.

So while the tunneling contractor and WSDOT are taking pains to say this might not be the ENTIRE problem, they are also figuring out now how to remove that pipe for starters. As the full update says, they don’t know yet what this means to the schedule, which had projected tunnel completion by the end of 2015 and Alaskan Way Viaduct teardown starting after the tunnel opened.

6:30 PM: More followup on today’s disclosure, via Seattle Times (WSB partner) transportation reporter Mike Lindblom.

Milestone for the Highway 99 tunnel project: Barging begins

November 23, 2013 at 9:53 am | In Alaskan Way Viaduct, Transportation, West Seattle news | 11 Comments

Milestone in the Highway 99 tunnel project this morning, according to this update just sent to news media by WSDOT‘s KaDeena Yerkan:

… Seattle Tunnel Partners (STP) started using barges to remove excavated soil from the SR 99 tunnel dig site this morning. The barges will take the excavated soil to Mats Mats, a quarry near Port Ludlow.

Prior to today, STP was using trucks to remove soil and dispose of it at facilities in the Puget Sound region. Moving forward, STP will use a combination of barges and trucks.

The labor issue that arose earlier in the tunnel drive has been resolved. Discussions between WSDOT and STP are ongoing. Details will be available upon the conclusion of those discussions.

By the way, a project-related closure of the Alaskan Way Viaduct is still looming, once the tunneling machine gets to the spot immediately beneath the existing structure, as first reported here back in April. We had asked Yerkan for an update and received this reply late Friday: “We still don’t have a date for when we will tunnel under the viaduct and thus close the structure to traffic for up to two weeks.”

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