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

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.

36 Replies to "How Highway 99 tunnel machine will be dug up, broken down, put back underground"

  • Petert June 16, 2014 (2:10 pm)

    Can you imagine the effort this would have necessitated had this happened underneath the downtown core ?

  • MikeK June 16, 2014 (2:51 pm)

    And how much did this useless video and the special crane etc. cost the taxpayers?

  • NancyB June 16, 2014 (3:51 pm)

    I was against the tunnel in the first place and this is seems like another opportunity to exact more money from the poor tax payers. It makes me very, very sad and disappointed in City Govt.

  • steve June 16, 2014 (3:57 pm)

    I knew it. Tunnel, bad idea.
    I enjoy looking at the water and Elliot bay when I drive that route. It’s stunningly beautiful.
    In 8 years when its done, I’ll get to look at a dark, leaking, tunnel wall. Can’t wait.

  • JanS June 16, 2014 (4:17 pm)

    so…does anyone besides me not have confidence in this?

  • alki warrior June 16, 2014 (4:19 pm)

    Her new name is called Christine not Bertha.

  • Alphonse June 16, 2014 (4:28 pm)

    Oops, sorry. I thought I had clicked on The Onion there for a minute.

  • Les June 16, 2014 (4:38 pm)

    A two lane toll tunnel for billions. I love the old viaduct traffic used to move far more efficiently before they started this huge boondoggle

  • jwright June 16, 2014 (5:00 pm)

    I don’t know what you people do for a living but stuff happens. If you haven’t been involved in a project that had any challenges you haven’t been involved in any projects.

    My wife and I were just driving down 99 and remarking how awesome the downtown waterfront is going to be without the viaduct. The tunnel is still a good idea.

    P.S. “I told you so” is nothing more than a passive-aggressive expression of your political impotence and is unbecoming.

  • SomeGuy June 16, 2014 (5:15 pm)

    Just a reminder – VIADUCT 2029!!

  • I. Ponder June 16, 2014 (5:48 pm)

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


    Does not need to be broken down! It’s already broken down.

  • KatherineL June 16, 2014 (5:50 pm)

    Where are they going to spread out all these pieces as they dismantle it? Surely not on the ground around the hole? It looks like it’ll take a lot of space.

  • TBone June 16, 2014 (5:59 pm)

    Wonder how many extra nuts and bolts will be left over…

  • David June 16, 2014 (6:00 pm)

    LOL, love the “everything” is horrible crowd on here. Seattle is always the worst city, the worst taxes, the worst projects, the worst development. Tired of the NIMBY whining. Get out of Seattle and try living in ANY other city of same size or bigger. Our projects are MORE on time and cost than any city I’ve ever lived in (light rail in under budget and time so far to U.W.). West Seattle bridge expansion was on time and under budget. And so this is delayed, just keep using the viaduct (which backed up and sucked LONG before this project). It won’t be THAT late even, just a few months, they STILL have to finish the entire north and south entrances. Sorry, as a project manager I know how incredibly complicated a project like this is, and it’s going actually very well CONSIDERING the challenges. Things break, sorry. It’s not magic, it’s just machinery. That happens, sucks but it happens. It’s GREAT news that it happened when it did and NOT later and deeper in the dig…so actually the best place it could break down (not “under” the viaduct or downtown).

  • Gatoya June 16, 2014 (6:19 pm)

    Everyone’s a comedian here on the West Seattle Blog when it comes to this tunnel. Hearing the same jokes and complaints over and over is getting quite boring.

  • Pibal June 16, 2014 (6:35 pm)


  • West Seattle Hipster June 16, 2014 (6:51 pm)

    To all those who enjoys the views while driving on the viaduct, it’s comforting to know you are driving while distracted. Eyes on the road please…….


    For the folks who bemoan all the wasted tax dollars going to the tunnel project, please also show the same passion when the city council or mayor floats another property tax levy to fund their excessive overspending.

  • Rick June 16, 2014 (7:24 pm)

    Quit your bitchin’ It’s only your money,time and life to create views for the special people. You should be ashamed. Create new vocabulary to control you and take your money to make others wealthy and have control. Prove me wrong…

  • Born on Alki June 16, 2014 (7:51 pm)

    “P.S. “I told you so” is nothing more than a passive-aggressive expression of your political impotence and is unbecoming.”

    Actually it was the original expert deep bore con$ultant$ that determined it was unbecoming. I think they are the ones that are saying “I told you so”. McGinn was right all along.

    So were one thousand feet into a nine thousand feet dig and toasted a new machine. I don’t hold out much hope a rebuilt one will make it another eight thousand.

    Every major decision that could conceivably be made on an infrastructure project was made on the Boston Big Dig, from how to pay for it to how to forge the public and political support for it to how to manage its construction and maintenance. Its stewards encountered every imaginable public-infrastructure pitfall, and fallen into many. The Big Dig’s story is an invaluable lesson: How can Seattle invest in infrastructure—and do it smart?
    Boston’s cost over runs were five times the original cost estimate. What makes this project different?
    This is why Seattle hired experts to determine feasibility of a deep bore tunnel in the first place.

  • zzz June 16, 2014 (8:15 pm)

    Aren’t blog comments supposed to be opinions? Why is it that if you disagree with how this project is being handled, you get YELLED at by disillusioned folk that know better than everyone. P.s…… WE TOLD YOU SO.

  • JK June 16, 2014 (8:59 pm)

    Yes, Bertha has turned in to a mess. However, I still look forward to walking on the waterfront without the roar of noise pollution.

  • wscommuter June 16, 2014 (9:25 pm)

    More of the typical ill-informed complaining. Fine to be opposed to the SR 99 project; just please know the facts. It IS boring to read the same old ill-informed whining.

    NancyB – this isn’t a City project; its a state (WSDOT) project. Just sayin’ …

    Les – We currently have a two-lane tunnel (the Battery St. tunnel). The new tunnel, however, will be modern, have wider lanes and engineered for appropriate speed. The viaduct is unsafe. Just the truth. It has to go. Rebuilding the viaduct was not appreciably cheaper than the tunnel we’re building now. Just the truth. And rebuilding the viaduct would have meant the current viaduct being torn down during a 2-year construction period. Imagine the chaos (just look at what happened last week with the accident that shut everything down). And a new viaduct would have been 50% larger a structure than the current viaduct (because of modern highway standards). It would have obliterated the waterfront.

    Just chill people. It will all work out.

  • Seattlite June 16, 2014 (9:34 pm)

    If it wasn’t everyone’s hard earned tax dollars paying for this boondoggle, I don’t think anyone would give a rats a$$ how extremely screwed up this so-called project is…

    Remember this mess the next you vote for Seattle leaders.

  • bolo June 16, 2014 (9:51 pm)

    @Born on Alki:
    “Boston’s cost over runs were five times the original cost estimate. What makes this project different?”
    Have been talking with a friend currently visiting from Boston. We were driving over Alaskan Way Viaduct last Saturday. He stated this project was nothing close to Boston’s “The Big Dig.” Mainly, that most of the players in that project were tremendously corrupt.
    Personally, I was hoping for a more simple solution; retrofitting the AWV.

  • sb June 16, 2014 (10:24 pm)

    Oh, come on you guys, this is just a minor speed bump along the way until we can enjoy the wall of condos that “connects” downtown with the waterfront.

  • Born on Alki June 16, 2014 (10:28 pm)

    @bolo…..I certainly hope the cost over runs will not be five times the original estimate, but history seems to have a way of repeating itself. Seattle voters were quite clear when the tunnel vote failed miserably, something like 70% no as I recall. But the state decided for us, and left Seattle taxpayers on the hook for any cost over runs. What could possibly go wrong ?
    BTW, retrofitting the AWV was my wish as well. After all, it was good enough for the eastern Spokane Street viaduct that is 50 some years old. I’m not “ill informed complaining”, just a bit worried what a few billion in debt would do to this city.

  • Zzz June 16, 2014 (11:33 pm)

    There is a way to fix it. Get Alaskan way open, by relocating construction material. Encase current viaduct with stronger support, use AW & lower level for current traffic N&S while constructing top of viaduct. Once done, use top NB, AW SB while doing middle section. Some slower traffic at times, but not closed. At least half NB 99 traffic gets off at Seneca or western, not an option with current plan 200 ft below grade.

  • miws June 17, 2014 (7:39 am)

    It IS boring to read the same old ill-informed whining.


    At least something related to the project is boring!





  • Cranky Westie June 17, 2014 (8:43 am)

    If they can not spell check the titles (“Repeir”) contained with in their exciting animation, I question whether they should be trusted with an addition 160 million dollars to repair anything.

  • (au) June 17, 2014 (10:20 am)

    ‘Rebuilding the viaduct was not appreciably cheaper than the tunnel we’re building now.Just the truth.’ That’s not the truth.
    Also, lets say the tunnel does get completed is everybody ok with a 600% increase in maintenance and operating costs? Also, yes the city government had (has) a hand in this fiasco.

    ‘To all those who enjoys the views while driving on the viaduct, it’s comforting to know you are driving while distracted. Eyes on the road please……’
    strange that there aren’t constant accidents if enjoying the view is so distracting. Plus, a lot of people are passengers commuting by bus.

    and zzz as far as i can tell the main argument for the tunnel is for people to yell, ridicule and belittle. I fought hard to get the tunnel stopped, I was flipped off, swore at, spoken to in a most condensing tone but not once was anybody willing to sit down with me and have a rational debate or conversation. I mean just look at wscommuter’s comments. If your against the tunnel somehow you are ill informed and whining.
    Even people on the blog who are now seemingly opposed to the tunnel said stupid sh*t to me like, I should write a letter if I was so concerned, or just leave it to the ‘experts’.
    It’s not NIMBY or whining to be opposed to something that originally was deemed infeasible!

  • pupsarebest June 17, 2014 (10:29 am)

    What a great animated video!
    The entire process unfolds so seamlessly, so flawlessly, so perfectly—not unlike previous videos illustrating what was supposed to transpire with the TBM from start to finish.

  • Lisbeth Jardine June 17, 2014 (2:08 pm)

    Can anyone verify whether or not there is Koch Bros. money behind founding and funding of Discovery Institute? Yeah, I know, DI did not do the study for tunnel, Cascadia Center did. But 6 of one and 1/2 doz of other–all of ’em avowed capitalists, youngearthers and anti-evolutionists draped in high-minded rhetoric. So, this tiple-B (Big Bertha Boondoggle) is the divinely comic result. I’ve been smiling all the way at this vivid demonstration of literal trickle down economics[ref. to that old Reaganomics hack, Geo. Gilder (apt name)]. If you want a full bodied belly laugh–read the “About Us” mission statement at the DI website. Then go to the Cascadia button and see how DI wants to plan [read: “feed at the public trough”] all the big transportation in the PNW.

  • G June 17, 2014 (2:34 pm)

    “Whining?” Does anyone expect this news article to elicit cries of joy? Blog comments are for those who want to voice their displeasure; we don’t need self-appointed referees to scold people for the “unthinkable” you know, criticizing an aspect of Seattle. Oh, with the perfunctory passive-aggressive, “then leave” remark.

  • wetone June 17, 2014 (4:41 pm)

    All I have to say is I hope the quality control from are city and state inspectors do a better job with knowing what they are inspecting and buying off as a finished product than they did on our Spokane St viaduct. It did not make it a year before it started falling apart and continues doing so. I wonder who is paying for the rework and patch jobs by our city workers and how many patches they will do before resurfacing the whole roadway over again.
    wscommuter what happens if there is an accident and or fire in the tunnel ? how long will it take to get help in a tunnel if it’s packed full of vehicles ? have you got someone lined up to man the whale pumps for getting the water out, and to jump up and down on the back up air handling system and so on. It will be interesting to see how many buildings receive some structural damage between the tunnel and waterfront project and how good the city does on keeping that info on the D/L

  • Marc Milrod June 17, 2014 (5:21 pm)

    I for one am not surprised, not impressed, and not, not, NOT ever going to use that patch of road, ever (on purpose). Just like the evaporation of SR520 once there was a user tac on that road, and I am I favor of pay-what-you-use systems.
    I just hope for the sake of all things sane that I am dead or gone before the bill comes due, given the best case scenario plan for tolling.
    For the cost (not to businesses) of multiple cut and cover tunnels, we get this. I just hope the sea wall proves effective.

Sorry, comment time is over.