West Seattle, Washington
WSDOT just published that new video about working hyperbarically with the Highway 99 tunneling machine as it continues a maintenance stop before moving on to dig the final 25 percent of its 9,270-foot path – explaining, among other machines, that the machine is underwater as well as underground and is therefore something of “a submarine.” During the maintenance work that’s been under way since January 5th, crews have replaced 250 cutterhead tools, like these:
10:48 AM: As mentioned earlier in the morning traffic watch, a collision investigation at 1st/Columbia has closed the SB Alaskan Way Viaduct onramp many use to get to West Seattle from downtown. A pedestrian has life-threatening injuries, according to Seattle Fire, and Seattle Police are expected to be on scene investigating for several hours. We’ll update when there’s word it’s reopened.
11:18 AM: This is affecting transit too:
Transit Alert – Expect possible transit service delays near the SB on ramp to the Alaskan Way Viaduct. Use the stop SB 2 Av at Cherry St.
— King County Metro (@kcmetrobus) January 5, 2017
1:17 PM: SDOT has just tweeted that the investigation is over and the intersection and onramp are open again. We haven’t heard any updates about the pedestrian.
1:44 PM: On SPD Blotter, police say the incident started with a truck headed southbound on 1st colliding with a car headed west on Columbia; the pedestrian and a third vehicle were then hit.
5 PM: We spotted the signage for these closures while heading over the bridge a little while ago to cover an event downtown – they have not yet been announced otherwise, but we’ve just obtained the details from WSDOT:
Drivers headed into downtown Seattle on Friday and Saturday nights should prepare for a full closure of northbound State Route 99 near the stadiums. Contractor crews working for the Washington State Department of Transportation will use the closure to repair damaged pavement.
Friday, Jan. 6 to the morning of Saturday, Jan. 7
From 8 p.m. until 8 a.m. the following morning crews will close all lanes of northbound SR 99 between South Spokane Street and South Royal Brougham Way.
Saturday, Jan. 7 to the morning of Sunday, Jan. 8
From 10:30 p.m. until 8 a.m. the following morning crews will close all lanes of northbound SR 99 between South Spokane Street and South Royal Brougham Way.
During the closures all northbound SR 99 traffic must exit at East Marginal Way.
Eastbound West Seattle Freeway ramp to northbound SR 99 will be closed.
This weekend’s work is weather-dependent and could be rescheduled in the event of heavy rain or snow.
ADDED 6:12 PM: SDOT has announced some closures too, to fix the street lights toward the west end of the bridge:
The Seattle Department of Transportation and Seattle City Light will be working on the Fauntleroy Expressway over two nights next week to make repairs to the street lights.
Sunday night, January 8, the curb lane for eastbound traffic will be closed from 11 p.m. until 5 a.m. Monday morning, January 9. The lane closure will extend eastbound from approximately where the roadway turns in and out of West Seattle to the Delridge Way onramp. The other eastbound travel lane will remain open; motorists are not likely to experience any delay.
On Monday night, January 9, the westbound exit at Admiral Way will be closed from 11 p.m. until 5 a.m. Tuesday morning, January 10. Motorists who would use this exit are asked to instead consider taking the Harbor Avenue SW/Avalon Way SW exit.
(Map showing the zone where the tunneling machine is now, from WSDOT’s update page)
Among those taking time off for the holidays, the Highway 99 tunneling-machine crew. Here’s the last update of the year from WSDOT, with a bit more than one-fourth of the way to go on the tunnel route:
Seattle Tunnel Partners crews built their final concrete tunnel ring of the year on Tuesday before stopping for the holidays. The remaining days of 2016 will include a break for crews, followed by scheduled maintenance on Bertha, the SR 99 tunneling the machine.
In the year since STP restarted tunneling, Bertha has traveled approximately 5,700 feet and built almost 900 rings. Along the way, crews continued to control the ground as they mined beneath streets and structures, including the Alaskan Way Viaduct.
When mining resumes early in the new year, Bertha will be less than 2,500 feet from the pit near Seattle Center where she’ll emerge at the end of her journey. STP will continue to inspect and perform maintenance on the machine as needed.
Bertha’s cutterhead is located approximately 160 feet below Third Avenue between Blanchard and Bell streets. Progress updates are posted on Mondays and Thursdays at our Follow Bertha page. You can also follow Bertha on Twitter @BerthaDigsSR99.
Happy holidays from the Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement Program. We’ll see you in 2017.
Current estimate is for the tunnel to open in early 2019. That’ll be almost a decade after the waterfront ceremony formalizing the plan; at that time, the hope was for a 2015 opening.
That time-lapse video shows road-building inside the under-construction Highway 99 tunnel, and it accompanies WSDOT’s latest update on tunneling progress. The tunneling machine is now more than 70 percent of the way along the 9,270-foot route, according to WSDOT, which included the video in this update published today. It’s the second update of the week – this one details progress at the tunnel’s “south portal.” It’s been almost a full year since tunneling resumed on December 22, 2015, two years and two weeks after the machine stalled.
While the Highway 99 tunneling machine hasn’t made much news lately, it’s continuing to dig steadily along, says WSDOT. Their latest twice-weekly update, published this afternoon, says it’s more than two-thirds of the way down the route – 6,337 of 9,270 feet. It’s already gone past the deepest point on the route and is starting to climb back toward the surface, currently in the zone beneath Belltown. The current estimated opening date remains early 2019, and as noted in this tweet, Viaduct demolition would follow over much of the rest of that year.
The Highway 99 tunneling machine has passed the one-mile mark as of this morning, according to WSDOT. It’s also made a new video showing how the machine is steered along its designated path underground, considering there’s no GPS:
The machine is at its deepest point – around 200 feet underground – with just under 4,000 feet remaining on the route, which is shown on this map, along with the machine’s approximate current location. The most recent timeline says that absent any further major problems, the tunnel will open in 2019.
10:30 AM: If you’re headed out, avoid NB 99. A two-vehicle crash on the Alaskan Way Viaduct – one vehicle on its side – is blocking the road and already resulting in backups, as the webcam above shows.
10:44 AM: Update from SDOT:
UPDATE: Collision now also blocking SB left lane on the Viaduct. Expect heavy delays. pic.twitter.com/noP7sBjUz0
— seattledot (@seattledot) November 1, 2016
10:50 AM: Metro just texted that the C Line and Routes 120/125 are routed off NB 99, and will be diverting onto 1st Avenue S. instead.
11:10 AM: Via scanner, it’s confirmed that traffic is getting through, one lane NB, but that still means slow going.
11:59 AM UPDATE: Thanks for the photo, taken from Pike Place Market by an anonymous reader who says pieces of railing/siding fell away – which is why SDOT is still working at the scene, and one lane remains closed in each direction. No major injuries reported, by the way.
12:48 PM: Metro just texted to say the buses that use the NB Viaduct are all back on their regular routes.
2:38 PM: SDOT says the NB lanes are all open now; the left SB lane remains closed.
5 PM: Sorry, we had that backward; SDOT was working in the left NB lane – and still is, per this tweet a few minutes ago – while the SB lanes have all reopened.
WSDOT just announced that – as often happens – the Alaskan Way Viaduct inspection has ended early. So Highway 99 is back to being fully open (as of 5 pm), AND no closure Sunday.
While the Alaskan Way Viaduct is closed this weekend for its twice-yearly inspection, the machine digging its replacement will be taking a break for inspection too. WSDOT announced this afternoon that the Highway 99 tunneling machine has made its third maintenance stop of the year and will likely be stopped for about a month.
It’s currently stopped about 190 feet under First Avenue, north of Pike Street, and has now gone 4,721 feet, more than half the 9,270-foot tunnel route. You can read WSDOT’s update in full here; in short, crews will be inspecting and changing some of the machine’s 700+ cutting tools. This year’s two previous maintenance stops were March 12-April 29, just before the machine went under the Viaduct, and June 23-July 18. The newest schedule revision says the tunnel will open in early 2019.
P.S. Above ground, the Viaduct inspection closure is scheduled for 6 am-6 pm Saturday and Sunday. These often end early, and we’ll let you know if/when this one does.
WSDOT‘s big alert announcement is expected tomorrow, but in the meantime, we brought you early warning September 22nd that next weekend (Saturday-Sunday, October 8-9) will bring the next twice-yearly inspection/maintenance closure of the Alaskan Way Viaduct, and we’re reminding you again today. This is scheduled once again as a shutdown 6 am-6 pm each day, but recent closures have tended to end early.
Also note, next Saturday’s closure will include a stretch north of the Battery Street Tunnel, between Denny Way and Valley Street, 6 am-3 pm, with Valley remaining open for detours.
P.S. We also expect to hear tomorrow if the Highway 99 tunneling machine has passed the halfway point along its 9,270-foot route – WSDOT updates this page on Mondays and Thursdays, and as of three days ago, it was less than 100 feet from that milestone.
ORIGINAL SEPTEMBER 22ND REPORT: Another road-closure alert: The weekly “lookahead” published today by SDOT includes the news that the next twice-yearly inspection/maintenance closure of the Alaskan Way Viaduct is set for the weekend of October 8-9, 6 am-6 pm each day. The most recent shutdowns have lasted just one day, with the second “reserve” day going unused; we’ll be checking with WSDOT to see what they can tell us in advance.
P.S. WSDOT continues to update its tunnel-progress page on Thursdays and Mondays; as of today, the machine has traveled 4,362 feet of the 9,270-foot distance.
ADDED: WSDOT confirms the closure plan. The official announcement is expected on Monday, October 3rd, but it’s on their website already:
Plan ahead: Semiannual Alaskan Way Viaduct Inspection
Saturday, Oct. 8 and Sunday, Oct. 9
The Alaskan Way Viaduct/SR 99 will be closed between South Spokane Street and Denny Way from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day.
Additionally, there will be a full closure of SR 99 between Denny Way and Valley Street from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 8. Valley Street will remain open for detours.
ADDED MONDAY: And, the final confirmation.
WSDOT announced this afternoon that the Highway 99 tunneling machine is back on the move after a two-week stop to change cutterhead tools. Above is a photo of a used “tooth,” taken by Vlad Oustimovitch, a West Seattle resident who is a longtime member of the citizens’ advisory group and shared photos with WSB after a tour of the machine toward the start of the stopdown. Today’s WSDOT update says that as of lunchtime, “crews were tunneling north approximately 170 feet below First Avenue, just north of Union Street” and that the contractor “replaced a total of 14 large cutting tools during the two-week maintenance period. Bertha has moved from clay to a mixture of sand and gravel that wears down cutting tools more quickly. … The tools STP changed during this maintenance stop are the first parts of the cutterhead that contact the ground, making them crucial to the machine’s ability to excavate soil. STP will continue to inspect and replace these tools as needed during the course of mining. … The machine has tunneled more than 4,135 feet and is nearing the halfway point of its 9,270-foot-long journey.”
(UPDATED 9:36 PM WITH PHOTOS FROM TOUR TODAY)
ORIGINAL REPORT, 4:26 PM: Since its last maintenance stop ended in mid-July, the Highway 99 tunneling machine has dug 1,000 feet. Another 500, and it will be at the official halfway mark. But right now, WSDOT says, the machine is stopped down “to inspect and replace some of the larger cutterhead tools on the front end … STP chose to check the tools – and change them as needed – because Bertha has moved from clay into a mixture of sand and gravel that will more quickly wear them down. Replacing the tools now will preserve the machine and ensure it continues to function well as it mines toward STP’s next planned maintenance stop.” You can read the full update here, and you can go here to see where the machine is now – that’s also the page that tracks its progress, currently listed as 4,135 feet along the planned 9,270-foot tunneling route.
ADDED 9:36 PM: A West Seattleite who has long represented our area on Viaduct/Tunnel advisory groups, Vlad Oustimovitch, is sharing photos tonight from a tunnel-project tour earlier today. First photo shows a used drilling tooth that was replaced today, as part of the work mentioned above:
Next, you’re looking at “giant rollers” that hold up the tunnel-building part of the machine:
Here are the pistons that push the machine forward once rings are in place:
Another view from inside the tunneling machine:
Here’s the control room:
And “the tail end” of the machine:
Back outside the machine, in the already-built 4,135 feet of tunnel, here’s a look at the upper deck:
Oustimovitch was one of “about eight” people on today’s tour.
1:06 PM: If you’re heading toward Northbound 99, could be trouble for a while – the Battery Street Tunnel is closed after its sprinklers activated, following a reported vehicle stall, according to SDOT’s Twitter feed.
1:21 PM: SDOT says the tunnel is now open again.
(WSDOT video from last week, showing road-building in the tunnel section dug so far)
Just announced by WSDOT – the Highway 99 tunneling machine is back in action after “a month of routine and hyperbaric maintenance” that started June 23rd and ended yesterday. WSDOT says, “The maintenance period included more than 40 shifts of work under hyperbaric conditions, changing cutting tools and performing other maintenance in the space behind the cutterhead.” The tunneling machine is one-third of the way – 3,108 feet – along the route, now “located approximately 120 feet beneath Spring Street, tunneling north toward First Avenue.” Two more stops like this are expected, WSDOT says.
5:37 PM: If you’re headed this way, you might want to avoid southbound 99, or wait a while. Texter alerts us to a crash that’s confirmed by SDOT, blocking the left lane of SB 99 in the stadium zone. We’ll update when we hear it’s clear.
6:20 PM: SDOT just tweeted that a tow truck has arrived.
6:41 PM: And it’s clear.
It’s a question still asked fairly often – when the Alaskan Way Viaduct is gone and the tunnel is open, how will you get to downtown from northbound Highway 99? WSDOT has just announced it’s chosen the builder for the ramp that answers the question:
Construction will soon begin on a new flyover off-ramp designed to connect the northbound lanes of State Route 99 to Seattle’s stadiums, Pioneer Square, and downtown Seattle.
The Washington State Department of Transportation awarded the $3.5 million contract to Interwest Construction, Inc. of Sequim to build the ramp to South Dearborn Street that will allow northbound traffic to exit in Seattle’s SODO neighborhood when the new SR 99 tunnel opens.
“The flyover ramp is an important piece of the larger Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement Program,” said David Sowers, deputy program administrator for the Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement Program. “And drivers should not worry about construction delays, as the ramp will be built in the existing SR 99 work zone near the stadiums.”
WSDOT and Interwest expect to sign a contract giving notice to proceed later this month. Construction activities are expected to start in July and last approximately six months. The new off-ramp will open to motorists at the same time as the new SR 99 tunnel, currently scheduled for 2018.
The latest tunneling-progress report, by the way, is here; as of last Thursday, 2,886 feet tunneled, about 200 feet shy of a third of the 9,270-foot distance.
5:27 AM: Reminder – northbound Highway 99/Alaskan Way Viaduct is now closed from here to the Battery Street Tunnel for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon/Half Marathon. The official alert notes that the event could last as long as 3 pm, but the marathon’s own road-closure grid page says the 99 closure could end by late morning, so we’ll keep an eye on advisories and webcams like the one above (you can also use the city’s Travelers Information Map to check live video of the course on the Viaduct at Western – use the “downtown” section of the video camera list on the lower right area of the map page).
10:17 AM: Highway 99/AWV is open again – as verified by the aforementioned cameras. Other marathon-related road closures might still be in effect – see the “grid page” link above for potentially affected areas.
In the middle of the second week post-Viaduct closure, an update on the Highway 99 tunneling machine: After a “break for rest and routine maintenance,” WSDOT says this afternoon, “Seattle Tunnel Partners resumed mining late Tuesday evening.” The machine has now gone more than 2,000 feet in all, which is more than 20 percent of the way along the full tunnel route, shown in the WSDOT-created graphic above. It also shows the machine in Zone 2, which will take it under the Columbia onramp; as explained during the closure, when we asked WSDOT on behalf of a reader, the machine is much further beneath that structure, so a precautionary closure was NOT considered necessary. WSDOT says that from there, the machine will travel under Western Avenue, and they promise twice-weekly updates here.
In a week or so, you might see something unusual on the Alaskan Way Viaduct that has nothing to do with tunneling: The city announced this afternoon that “a major film production” will shoot in Seattle for six days between May 19th and 26th, including filming that will lead to “rolling slowdowns” on the Viaduct. The announcement explains, “Traffic is never completely stopped, but there will be brief periods where it will be slowed to follow the production as it moves along the Viaduct. Production will take place intermittently outside of peak driving hours, between 9:00 AM and 3:00 PM on May 19, 2016 – May 26, 2016.” Scenes also will be filmed in Pioneer Square. The city’s announcement doesn’t identify the film; Office of Film and Music spokesperson Joe Mirabella says, “The City’s longstanding policy is to keep the name of the project confidential until after filming is complete.” (We’ve looked around a bit but haven’t found an obvious match yet.)
P.S. Our archives show a mention of similar filming back in 2010.
As of a few minutes ago, the northbound Alaskan Way Viaduct [“live” camera above] has reopened, following the southbound side [“live” camera below] by about half an hour.
And that concludes the almost-ten-day closure, five hours after today’s surprise announcement of an early ending to what was expected to be a shutdown lasting about two weeks. Full backstory in our afternoon report published right after the news broke.
8:18 PM: Carol points out in a comment that the ramp from the EB bridge is still blocked off – the camera verifies – so crews haven’t gotten there yet.
8:51 PM: WSDOT says the ramp is open now. (Here’s the camera view.)
9:18 PM: Thanks again to everybody who helped out by sharing commute reports this past week and a half – and remember that we have long been reporting on the morning commute every weekday, so we’ll be back at it tomorrow (just not quite as early!). And remember, another major project is ahead – overnight closures of the west end of the bridge, starting in a week, for the Fauntleroy Expressway seismic-cushion re-replacements.
9:58 PM: Just in case you missed this earlier: Metro’s plan:
All Metro routes that normally serve the Alaskan Way Viaduct will return to their regular routes and stops at the start of service Monday morning, May 9. … With the start of service on Monday, the bus stop on westbound Columbia Street at Second Avenue will reopen to regular transit service, and Viaduct buses will no longer serve the temporary stops they made in the SODO area on or near S Lander Street during last week’s closure.
All riders should note that Viaduct service will remain on the current reroutes throughout Sunday night and until about 4:30 AM on Monday.
And the Water Taxi will continue its extra West Seattle parking and extra Vashon runs for one last day, tomorrow morning. Then everything is back to normal Tuesday.