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.
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.
(“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.
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.
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. …
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.
(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.
(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.
(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.
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.
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.
(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.
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.”
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.
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.
(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:
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.
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.
… 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.”
(East-facing camera on the West Seattle Bridge; see other cams on the WSB Traffic page)
The blocked-off lane you see in the bridge-camera image is a reminder that this weekend’s planned Highway 99 closure is now in effect, both directions between the West Seattle Bridge and Battery Street Tunnel, plus the northbound stretch from the tunnel to Valley Street (map), until early Monday. (As always, if the highway reopens early, we’ll publish an update.)
(SDOT rendering of future South Atlantic St. overpass, via Flickr)
We’ve already mentioned this weekend’s planned Highway 99 closure, mostly for work on the Atlantic Street Overpass – but there’s more to it than The Viaduct. Here’s a detailed reminder from WSDOT, including details of a partial closure north of the Battery Street Tunnel:
Crews working above, below and on the ground will close State Route 99 through Seattle this weekend.
In SODO, contractor crews working for the Washington State Department of Transportation will unveil the permanent concrete shape of the South Atlantic Street overpass above SR 99 by removing temporary steel and timber beams that supported construction.
North of downtown, contractor crews working for the Seattle Department of Transportation will install a sewer line under the road for the Mercer Corridor project and grind the pavement in the southbound lanes of the Battery Street Tunnel.
Early heads-up – this week’s edition of the SDOT/WSDOT “construction lookahead” is out, and it includes first word of the next planned closure for Highway 99 between the West Seattle Bridge and Battery Street Tunnel: 10 pm Friday, Nov. 8th, to 5 am Monday, Nov. 11.
P.S. If you’re driving north of downtown this Saturday, do note the lookahead also says the two right lanes of northbound SR99 over the Aurora Bridge will be closed 7:30 am-11 am Saturday (October 26th) for bridge inspection.
8:59 AM: Thanks to @hommesea for the tip via Twitter: There’s a crash on northbound 99, and the Battery Street Tunnel is closed in that direction as a result. If you have to head out sometime soon, you might want to wait a while or check out another route.
9:27 AM: Northbound 99 is now reported clear. HOWEVER – there’s scanner talk of a crash on northbound I-5 in downtown, though it’s not on the 911 log.
WSDOT announced tonight that the inspection work it had planned to do in two installments this weekend is all done – so it will NOT close Highway 99 from the West Seattle Bridge to the Battery Street Tunnel again on Sunday after all. **BUT** the separate utility-work closure NORTH of the tunnel still will be in effect, so northbound 99 traffic must exit at Western Avenue until Monday morning. See the full update here.
(Live view from the east-facing WS Bridge camera; other cameras are on the WSB Traffic page)
5:04 AM: The bridge cam is usually a weekday fixture here but it’s up this morning so you can check for backups while the Viaduct/Highway 99 is closed 5 am-6 pm between the West Seattle Bridge and Battery Street Tunnel for its twice-yearly safety inspection. It’s supposed to reopen by 6 pm and then close again 6 am-6 pm tomorrow. If you’re going north of downtown, 99 is closed for the entire weekend between the BST and Valley Street. And there’s one other closure you might want to know about tonight – 10 pm Saturday to 5 am Sunday, the northbound I-5 ramp to the bridge is scheduled to close for re-striping.
8:01 PM UPDATE: The state has announced the Viaduct/99 stretch from the bridge to the Battery Street Tunnel will NOT close again on Sunday after all. BUT the 99 closure north of downtown continues until Monday morning as scheduled. Here’s our update.
WSDOT has just sent a reminder of this weekend’s Alaskan Way Viaduct/Highway 99 inspection closures – first noted here a week and a half ago: This time, instead of closing for an entire weekend, the closures will be 5 am-6 pm Saturday (October 5th) and 6 am-6 pm Sunday (October 6th). If you will be traveling north of the Battery Street Tunnel, there IS a weekend-long closure, timed to coincide with the other closures: SDOT says, “All lanes in both directions of SR 99/Aurora Avenue North will be closed between the south end of the Battery Street Tunnel and Valley Street from 11 pm Friday to 5 am Monday.”
9:04 AM: Avoid Highway 99 TFN – WSDOT says it is blocked both ways at the Battery Street Tunnel by a jackknifed semi-truck. More info as we get it.
9:21 AM: Good news – tipster Jonathan says the 99 problem has been cleared – and the camera view appears to verify that. (As does WSDOT via Twitter.)
11:50 AM: Now there’s a crash on the eastbound West Seattle Bridge, before the Delridge on-ramp. Here’s the city camera for the Fauntleroy approach so you can check if the backup’s cleared:
1:39 PM: Commenters report trouble on 99 again. And there are some problems on I-5 too. If you really HAVE TO head out – here’s the custom list of traffic-related Twitter users (including WSDOT, which does tweet on weekends) that we watch. See traffic cameras here.
5:56 PM UPDATE: We’re about to launch a new traffic update for the evening. There’s a crash on the northbound Viaduct – no details, just that it’s on the SFD 911 log as “motor vehicle accident/freeway,” northbound 99 near Seneca. Meantime, the tree blocking 35th by 108th is now cleared.
6:25 PM UPDATE: Evening updates on traffic and weather are here.
Tunnel-digging – which resumed today – is NOT all that’s happening along the Highway 99 corridor nearest us. The photo above, shared by WSDOT on the WSB Flickr page, shows what’s being dug next to the tunnel machine’s launch pit south of what’s left of the Alaskan Way Viaduct. This site will hold the South Portal Operations Building for the tunnel, explained by WSDOT: “The building – along with a similar one at the tunnel’s future north portal – will house the equipment needed for the safe operation of the tunnel, including emergency generators, ventilation fans and parking space for maintenance vehicles.”
This project is part of what the combined Stakeholders Groups were briefed about last Tuesday. We cover those quarterly-or-so briefings when we can, because they are usually chock full of news about road projects affecting us, but this time it was in direct conflict with the big Seattle Public Schools announcement – so we weren’t there. However, the presentation from the meeting is online now, and if you want a quick update on what’s up, the toplines include:
*Findings on another tunnel-tolling scenario (page 4)
*More on the aforementioned South Portal building and the Atlantic St. overpass (page 8)
*Progress report on the Highway 99 timber bridge project south of the WS Bridge (page 50)
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