Highway 99 tunnel-machine rescue pit digging on hold after 3 days

As reported here just three days ago, WSDOT announced digging had begun for the pit going down 120 feet to rescue the Highway 99 tunnel-machine cutter head. Tonight, WSDOT has announced the digging is on hold. Here’s the entire update:

On Oct. 23, WSDOT archaeologists monitoring the access pit excavation observed a deposit containing shell material that requires further evaluation and may indicate the presence of cultural materials. No artifacts or human remains were found. WSDOT has very strict protocols when archeological material is discovered and those protocols were followed today. Excavation activities in the access pit have stopped and we are now coordinating with the Federal Highway Administration and tribal governments, and the Washington State Department of Archeology and Historic Preservation to determine the next steps. As more information is available to share with the public, we will pass it along.

The image above is a screengrab from the project’s monitoring cameras, which are online “live” here.

38 Replies to "Highway 99 tunnel-machine rescue pit digging on hold after 3 days"

  • Rick October 23, 2014 (6:57 pm)


  • timeslid October 23, 2014 (7:18 pm)


  • Alki Resident October 23, 2014 (7:33 pm)

    This just keeps getting better.

  • Krm66 October 23, 2014 (7:46 pm)


  • tim October 23, 2014 (8:13 pm)

    it is next to Ivars right?

  • Jim P. October 23, 2014 (8:25 pm)

    And who pays for the seemingly endless delays? Want to bet it’s you and me as taxpayers?

    I keep hearing “In the Year 2525” playing in the background to indicate when this project will finish.

    Starting to approach the point where the city could just hire a few yachts to haul commuters and their cars along the waterfront at need.

  • Really? October 23, 2014 (8:41 pm)

    From a comment on another story regarding the tunnel;
    I support the tunnel but I was talking with an elderly friend of mine the other day who is against it. I asked why and she told me that her mother, before she passed, remembered when Seattle was “filling in” that area… and how as a young woman she watched them pile up the old streetcars and steel streetcar tracks and bury them… under the soil… right where Bertha’s planning to dig’.

    I have many friends who’ve grown up here and they agree that a few shells are NOT the only things that will be
    found in and around this Big Dig!

  • Rick October 23, 2014 (8:46 pm)

    If you live in/do business and pay taxes in Seattle you apparently have more money than you need so let’s share.

  • Shell Game October 23, 2014 (9:12 pm)

    Aren’t we going to pay unemployed exotic dancers $15/hr to dig a new bike lane into the tunnel, so that indigenous City Council members can fundraise for the underground locavore mushroom growers?

  • JanS October 23, 2014 (9:14 pm)

    Jim P…I was going to suggest we have some sort of drawing…to see who comes closest to the month/year the tunnel is finished …2024 , anyone?
    (that is, if it’s ever finished)

  • trevor October 23, 2014 (9:26 pm)

    Let’s hope for higher property taxes, and I hope the monorail gets built too.

  • cj October 23, 2014 (9:33 pm)

    I’m just getting this really strong feeling that this project was cursed from the beginning.

  • G. Jetson October 23, 2014 (9:33 pm)

    By the time this tunnel is actually completed some large tech company will have perfected the flying car and we will no longer need to drive under the city in a dark, gloomy tunnel.

  • sc October 23, 2014 (9:36 pm)

    For want of a nail a horseshoe was lost,
    for want of a horseshoe a horse went lame,
    for want of a horse a rider never got through,
    for want of a rider a message never arrived,
    for want of a message an army was never sent,
    for want of an army a battle was lost,
    for want of a battle a war was lost,
    for want of a war a kingdom fell,

    and all for want of a nail.

  • David October 23, 2014 (9:51 pm)

    I love the “panic”. It’s as silly and fake as the Ebola nonsense. Calm down my panicked little chickens. Who CARES if the whole thing is a few months delayed, that’s WHY we went for a tunnel….99 stays up and running even if it’s delayed. I remember the “panic” over the light rail tunnel…the buildings on Broadway would collapse…the houses along Capital Hill would fall into the ground…the tunnel under Montlake Cut would flood…blah blah blah. Nothing happened. All that happened here is the machine broke. It’s being fixed. Relax. Cars break, computers break, stuff breaks. It sucks, but we’ll fix it. It’s a tiny 1 mile tunnel, NOT “the big dig”. We can dig a mile tunnel. We’ve already tunneled through Beacon Hill, under I-5 to Cap Hill and all the way to Husky Stadium and we’re now tunneling to Northgate (and most folks aren’t even aware of it). And a delay for an archaeological find? That’s normal. That happens on EVERY major project. Nothing unusual. Relax kids. Or run around screaming in a panic about nothing…either way.

  • David October 23, 2014 (10:03 pm)

    “If you live in/do business and pay taxes in Seattle you apparently have more money than you need so let’s share”.

    Seattle DOES share already. We pay for the rest of the state. The folks in rural eastern Washington USE more state services than they generate in taxes. Seattle pays for everyone (but ironically they seem to think they support Seattle, ha). The money is here (it’s why we have all those darn tall buildings downtown). We also have the lowest unemployment in the state. Odd. Hmm. It’s like people WANT to be here. No one is forced to live in Seattle. LOL. Seriously though, Americans have the lowest taxes of the industrialized 1st world but are always complaining constantly about their taxes. It’s amusing. There are many “real” problems in the world to worry about, this isn’t one of them.

  • pupsarebest October 23, 2014 (10:12 pm)

    Stop complaining, naysayers and doom & gloomers—$4+ billion doesn’t buy perfection.

  • K'lo October 23, 2014 (10:22 pm)

    This construction IS taking place on a portion of Seattle that exists due to being filled In with earth that was sluiced off the the local hills. It is my fear that during an earthquake this area has a greater chance of ‘liquefying’, the tunnel collapsing, endangering more people than the current viaduct.

  • Mike October 23, 2014 (10:54 pm)

    When it’s done, those that complained can take the surface street. :)

  • dsa October 24, 2014 (1:34 am)

    I’m all for delay. I am in no hurry to have to pay to drive into a hole.

  • Gene October 24, 2014 (5:06 am)

    Well David – I wouldn’t use the word panicked -I’d use frustrated – concern- maybe angry- but mostly frustrated- with a touch of – loss of confidence.

  • w.s. maverick October 24, 2014 (5:54 am)

    scrap the idea

  • Pendragon October 24, 2014 (6:06 am)

    Let us know if they dig up anything grail- shaped!

  • heather October 24, 2014 (7:17 am)

    @David “Calm down my panicked little chickens.” Hahaha!

  • Duff R-B October 24, 2014 (8:08 am)

    RIP Bertha
    1)tear down the viaduct. 2)dig a trench. 3) build a stacked roadway in trench. 4)put lid on trench. 5) lease the area on top of lid for housing development. 6) pay off project with lease income.
    The MI lids on I90 work. The University Tract works. Why not?

  • Stacks October 24, 2014 (8:35 am)

    LOL! That’s all the deeper that the access tunnel is for repair? I thought they had already reached Bertha!!

  • norskgirl October 24, 2014 (8:53 am)

    Perhaps we need Excalibur instead of Bertha.

  • North Admiral Resident October 24, 2014 (9:04 am)

    Right on, David.

  • Carol O. October 24, 2014 (9:33 am)

    Hope it’s a good historical find. Very interested in the life and culture of the early Native Americans in this region. So the digging will be delayed awhile, I can wait, not the end of the world.

  • bigdigbigproblems October 24, 2014 (9:45 am)

    The scope of the Light Rail tunnel hardly compares to sinking the world’s largest boring machine into the waterfront of Seattle. No one sounds panicked. They sound frustrated that all the problems that made them against the tunnel seem to be coming to bear. The proponents of the tunnel said the aerial part of 99 isn’t safe, so good thing that stays up while we get delays. Also, it will cost more. All those workers they want to have available when Bertha starts moving again are getting paid to do something. And let’s not even pretend like the temporary road connections around the worksite are helping anyone. The sky isn’t falling, but people should be concerned right now.

  • wakeflood October 24, 2014 (10:13 am)

    It might be just a midden or campsite like those that existed throughout our riparian shorelines and beaches. There were likely ones near or at the Fauntleroy cove where a ferry dock and large underground CSO station is currently being finished. Generally, the artifacts are collected, cataloged and the project restarts. If memory serves, this same situation occurred during the Mercer project. That might have been offline for a few weeks, maybe less?

    As the saying went, back when the early settlers arrived to the abundance that was our local paradise, “when the tide is out, the table is set”.

  • Rick October 24, 2014 (10:51 am)

    David,a touch of sarcasm.

  • Ex-Westwood Resident October 24, 2014 (11:18 am)

    Duff R-B,
    The “cut and cover” was one of the proposed replacements for the viaduct.
    The reason it wasn’t chosen was the viaduct would have had to torn down before ANY work was to begin on it. Also the “cover” portion of it would not be strong enough, or meet safety standards to allow building to be placed on it. It was planned for a “Green Belt” park would be place on top ot it.
    IMO – if we had gone with the “C-A-C” option, we would never had seen the “cut.” Once the viaduct was torn down, the Clowncil/Legislature and Enviro-wackos of Seattle would have made sure that the “surface street” option would have go through.
    Do I support the tunnel? No. I supprted the least expensive option that was placed out there, but quickly dismissed by the Clowncil. The refit of the viaduct that would have meet ALL earthquake saftey standards and made the viaduct life extended for 25+ years, all the the cost of about $800 Million.
    But those in power (Developers) wanted to see our waterfront turned into the San Francisco Embarkedero of the PNW.

  • Enjoying Retirement October 24, 2014 (1:44 pm)

    The longer it takes, the longer I can use 99. Delays are good.

  • wscommuter October 24, 2014 (1:49 pm)

    Well said David. I am always amused by the doom & gloom comments here whenever there is any bad news on the SR 99 project. Hitting a midden or such is no big deal – once the tunnel turns inward and deeper, no more middens, etc.

  • Civik October 24, 2014 (5:13 pm)

    @Mike, without any downtown exits, most of us heading into the city will be taking 1st, 4th, or I5. Unless you are bypassing downtown, the tunnel is useless and simply there to make for a wealthy tourist trap.

    @G. Jetson, the aircar is a pipe dream that will never happen and has been attempted since wings were invented.

  • wscommuter October 24, 2014 (7:15 pm)

    @Civik … my guess is that most of us will actually be taking the Alaskan Way route, with a right turn up Columbia or such, once the new Alaskan Way road is finished. I think most folks don’t know that a much improved Alaskan Way is coming (with a bike lane set apart) that will have right turns into downtown. I’m a “Seneca Exit” person who works in the heart of downtown, and anticipate that I’ll be taking 99, and then exiting at the tunnel entrance onto Alaskan Way. It will work well for many of us.

  • Bertha DeBlues (@BerthaDeBlues) October 30, 2014 (2:31 am)

    Without me, you wouldn’t even know about all this cultural significance right under your feet. You’re welcome, Seattle.

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