You’re invited to tour the tunnel work zone with WSDOT

(Part of the tunneling machine, being assembled now in Japan – photo courtesy WSDOT)
If you use Highway 99 or adjacent roads through Pioneer Square/SODO, you drive by it all the time – so maybe you’d be interested in a close-up look at the tunnel work zone. If so, WSDOT invites you to join a walking tour this Thursday night – read on for the details:

Usually, it’s not polite to stare, but in this case it’s history in the making, so it’s encouraged. Crews are preparing right now for the world’s largest-diameter tunnel-boring machine to arrive in 2013. The Washington State Department of Transportation is inviting the public to stare in amazement at the massive work zone for the State Route 99 tunnel project.

Join project leaders this week on a mile-long, round-trip walking tour along the bicycle/pedestrian path adjacent to the construction site. Watch crews dig the launch pit for the 300-foot-long tunnel-boring machine and hear explanations of the equipment being used to do the work.

“There’s a lot of amazing equipment and activity happening on site right now and we want people to see and understand what’s going on,” said Linea Laird, Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement Program administrator. “This is the first of many opportunities we’ll offer for a better glimpse of construction.”

Although the five-story-tall tunneling machine won’t take the stage until next year, its supporting cast – including a fleet of massive cranes, drill rigs and excavators at work to the west of CenturyLink Field – are impressive in their own right. In addition to digging the 80-foot-deep pit where the machine will begin its northward journey, crews are building a new overpass and putting the finishing touches on a new section of SR 99 to replace the south end of the Alaskan Way Viaduct.

The tour will begin at Milepost 31, the Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement Program’s information center in Pioneer Square. This center houses interactive exhibits, a model of the SR 99 tunnel-boring machine and the latest project information.

Walking tour details
6 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 6
Meet at Milepost 31, 211 First Ave. S., Seattle

For those who can’t attend, a new self-guided tour is available. Displays have been installed along the bicycle/pedestrian path to describe construction activities, machinery at work and the area’s history. Access to the path’s north entrance is available at South King Street and Alaskan Way South, a few blocks south of Colman Dock, or the south entrance is at South Atlantic Street and Alaskan Way South, west of Safeco Field. Maps are available at Milepost 31. Construction cameras and Flickr photos also provide a regularly updated view of the work zone.

Learn more about the Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement Program at and Milepost 31, which is open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays and is open late during Pioneer Square’s First Thursday Art Walk. Admission to Milepost 31 is free.

14 Replies to "You're invited to tour the tunnel work zone with WSDOT"

  • DBP September 4, 2012 (6:48 pm)

    No comments yet? Hmmm.
    Everyone must be stuck in traffic.

  • brenda September 4, 2012 (9:01 pm)

    That’s funny…..!!

  • evergreen September 4, 2012 (9:34 pm)

    My kiddo would be very impressed. Definitely going to tour.

  • Jacob September 4, 2012 (9:49 pm)

    Despite those who disagree and will forever disagree, this is a great achievement and excited to witness engineering history.

  • Babs September 5, 2012 (3:15 am)

    Witness engineering history is right – the worlds largest tunnel boring machine will be attempting to dig under countless buildings built before science dictated building standards in ground created with fill in earthquake country. Let the party begin. I’m hopeful that there is no “told you so” down the road and mother nature rolls the earthquake dice somewhere else on the fault lines during the entire construction.

  • Xavier September 5, 2012 (9:36 am)

    Go ahead Jacob et al, enjoy witnessing engineering history, might just be the only source of education you’ll get in this town.

  • Helen September 5, 2012 (1:21 pm)

    Incredible project: but as one person becoming more aware of how important it is to create jobs in the USA, I am not happy to see pics of work done in Japan!!

  • WS commuter September 5, 2012 (3:37 pm)

    Xavier … don’t understand your comment. Are you saying this project is taking money from schools?

  • Jason September 5, 2012 (5:55 pm)

    That almost looks like one of Christopher Boffoli’s little people pictures… LOL!

    • WSB September 5, 2012 (6:34 pm)

      Jason – EXACTLY what I thought!

  • Ex-Westwood Resident September 6, 2012 (1:50 pm)

    The ground that the tunnel will be dug through is NOT fill. It is digging in to the hill to the east of Alaskan Way. Now if it was the original plan that followed the path of the current viaduct, then yes it would be through fill, but not the planned path it is going to take.

    • WSB September 6, 2012 (2:01 pm)

      EWR, are you counting the spot where it actually crosses under the existing Viaduct – the spot where they’ve been “reinforcing” for months now?

  • Ex-Westwood Resident September 6, 2012 (5:47 pm)

    No. The first ~1/8 of a mile will be through fill, but the remainder will not.
    Another area it will not disturb, unlike the original path, is the seawall. Although when they pull the viaduct down, I would be surprised if it did.

  • Ex-Westwood Resident September 6, 2012 (5:59 pm)

    I believe that the transition between fill and rock begins right around Yesler, as the tunnel begins to veer off to the NNE of the existing viaduct.
    This is unlike the original tunnel plan (cut and cover) which would have had it through fill all the way until it rose to the Battery St tunnel area.

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