Tunnel updates: Opening no sooner than August 2017; access-pit digging on hold again; new ‘settling’ info

(Added: New screengrab from tunnel-machine-access-pit camera)
2:35 PM: Even if nothing else goes wrong with the Highway 99 tunnel project, it won’t be open for use any sooner than August 2017.

That’s an estimate made by the contractor Seattle Tunnel Partners BEFORE the recent discovery of “settling” in the area; WSDOT just disclosed the date today, as part of a general pre-holiday update. The update also says that while no new settling has been detected near the pit being built to retrieve the cutter head of the broken-down tunneling, machine, settling elsewhere “is greater and farther reaching than anticipated. Engineers are still evaluating whether other factors are involved that could explain the discrepancy. We will continue to conduct daily inspections of the viaduct and watch the survey data closely as STP moves forward with their work. As we write this, we’re on a conference call with other reporters and reps from WSDOT and STP – we’ll be adding more details shortly.

ADDED 3:19 PM: The conference call is over; from WSDOT, it included project executive Matt Preedy and spokesperson Laura Newborn, and from Seattle Tunnel Partners, executive Chris Dixon, plus local/regional/national reporters.

Among the many points of note:

-The August 2017 date that debuted today was described as coming from the “October update” by STP. We asked why it wasn’t mentioned before, not even during the official stakeholders’ briefing (at which we were the only news org on hand) in early December. STP explained that these updates – which WSDOT now plans to make public – take several weeks to assemble, so the “October update” is just being parsed now. (Which means, they acknowledged, we won’t know full details of the “November update” – which would still not include this month’s turbulence – until January, and so on.)

-The schedule will remain “dynamic,” said WSDOT’s Preedy, until the tunneling machine is back in operation. (In other words, even the new August 2017 date is nowhere near set in stone.)

-Excavation of the pull-the-cutter-head-out-for-repairs pit is on hold now for two weeks, and not expected to resume until early January. Digging stopped on Friday, about three days after WSDOT had said it could resume. Some non-structural pilings, explained in the official online update, are being pulled out before they start going to the next level. STP’s Dixon explained that digging had been done in stages, about six feet at a time, before an evaluation of where everything stood. At the completion of the most recent stage – to 90 feet in pit depth, aka “-74 in elevation” – they decided to pause for piling removal.

-Would it have been quicker, in hindsight, to approach the tunnel-machine repair project from the south/interior? STP insisted it’s happy with its choice to build the pit to try to hoist the cutter head out, even though it’s of a magnitude that has never been done before, given the machine’s record size, etc., and has “been more difficult than anticipated.”

-The settlement of the Viaduct itself, when recalculated as explained in the online update, will likely be a bit less than estimated, but the settlement causes in the area remain a mystery, and an investigation continues.

-As for the big issues – who pays for all this unanticipated work? – the state continues to point out that this is a “design-build contract” and that STP is expected to do whatever it takes to fulfill that. Pressed on certain specifics, WSDOT’s Preedy said he didn’t think it “appropriate for either party to speculate” on how it’s all going to be worked out.

-About the “70 percent complete” recent proclamation, today’s answer seemed to mostly boil down to, that’s the percentage STP has been paid.

P.S. To see the “October schedule” from which the August 2017 open-to-traffic projection was pulled, go here. WSDOT also has published the September schedule, which also seems to project that same month (albeit a couple weeks earlier than the Oct. “schedule”).

75 Replies to "Tunnel updates: Opening no sooner than August 2017; access-pit digging on hold again; new 'settling' info"

  • Ray December 22, 2014 (2:47 pm)

    Gah. Tear it down (the viaduct). Fill it in (the tunnel). The money that would be spent fixing this boondoggle will very likely balloon to 2-5 times original costs. We would be better cutting our losses and using this money on other infrastructure.

  • Diane December 22, 2014 (2:48 pm)

    omg; all I can do is laugh out loud; what a mess

  • some dude December 22, 2014 (3:01 pm)

    Yes and agreed. I think it is time to start making bets about the outcome of the whole thing. It’s like the 3 stooges are in charge.

  • KT December 22, 2014 (3:07 pm)

    This was BEFORE the settlement issue that they were making this prediction AND WSDOT is just disclosing it today? Wow.

  • Babs December 22, 2014 (3:26 pm)

    We are the new “Boston big dig.” That was done almost 10 years OVER projected time to finish and cost over runs were massive. Estimated cost: 2.8 Billion. What it cost: 14.6 Billion. We voted the viaduct down several times. Bury Bertha and move on to something ethically right for our city.

  • les December 22, 2014 (3:38 pm)

    The proposed tunnel will never have enough capacity to improve our commutes to and from West Seattle. This project is a complete boondoggle and should be stopped NOW.
    The Rapid Ride will no longer be rapid since the Seneca and Western exits will no longer exist.
    The proposed waterfront park sounds good but in reality it will just be another downtown park full of homeless people ,drug dealing and aggressive panhandlers.
    The cut and cover option should be reconsidered but will additional lanes for cars.
    If that require the viaduct to be demolished so be it but the NEW contractors should be required to work 24/7 365 days a year until completion.
    The new Skagit river bridge was built in only a few months with the right incentives thing don’t need to take years to be completed.
    The Boston Big Dig cost $32 Billion!!!

  • RT December 22, 2014 (3:44 pm)

    There are no surprises here. Just sad confirmation of the reasons why so many of us voted against this project. Best bet is that the contractor will end up walking away from this as too expensive to salvage. Especially if they truly have already received 70% payment.

  • Chris December 22, 2014 (3:49 pm)

    What exactly is cut and cover? I don’t even know what it is but I am more in favor of that at this point. Sounds to me that it would “COVER” the traffic and isn’t that the elitist goal of the tunnel?

  • cj December 22, 2014 (3:52 pm)

    I expect to be hearing the tunnel project updates far into the future when my grandchildren have children of their own. :/

  • SomeGuy December 22, 2014 (3:54 pm)

    STP has been paid 70% already? Who approved the payment milestones in THAT contract – Governor Gregoire? Ridiculous. My grandkids are going to be paying for this fiasco.

  • Chris December 22, 2014 (4:02 pm)

    O.K, I looked up cut and cover and now WHY on EARTH would they bore a tunnel and not cut and cover. CRAZY and sick that they can spend our money on a tunnel when they had a cut and cover option. I am from the east coast and not only was the big dig way the hell over time and budget they had to rebuild part of it already. The dig that keeps on giving.

  • Diane December 22, 2014 (4:05 pm)

    and isn’t this typical of government PR; send out a notice during the holidays when many/most people are out of town; thank god we have you to get us the info

  • Chris December 22, 2014 (4:06 pm)

    At least the big dig had a somewhat humorous and huge sign over it as it was being build that said “Rome Wasn’t Built In a Day”

  • BooHoo December 22, 2014 (4:10 pm)

    Ahhhh the Gregoire-Nickels Memorial Tunnel™ continues to be the gift that keeps on giving.

    And the fact that STP already has 70% of the cash just proves this to be the scam we voters all saw it being when it got shot down three times.

  • DaleR December 22, 2014 (4:19 pm)

    STP has been paid 70 percent of the contract?
    That seems like the most important part of this story.
    I’d like to know more about how that happened.

  • kevin December 22, 2014 (4:54 pm)

    And what are they going to do when the cutter head gets “stuck” again at some location where there is NO option to dig a pit and rescue it???

  • Duff Radke-Bogen December 22, 2014 (5:09 pm)

    Cut and cover is the process used for I90 on MI. For 99 the process could be; Demolish viaduct, dig trench within viaduct footprint, build lid over trench and finally the hat-trick, lease the development rights to the lid. This would give income to pay off construction costs. The park should be part of the seawall remodel. A pedestrian boulevard with the trolley and local traffic. The viaduct is neither here nor there, not waterfront or cliff edge view, no fish but foul, Not a good park location.

  • PSPS December 22, 2014 (5:46 pm)

    Or, instead of “cut and cover” which would involve having no viaduct traffic at all during construction, rebuild the already-demolished portion with seismic design, hook up what’s left to it, then do a seismic retrofit on the remaining structure, which does not require closing the viaduct for traffic. Total cost is a fraction of cut and cover, viaduct is safe and maintains its original capacity as well as the exits.

  • JayDee December 22, 2014 (5:57 pm)

    To add my part to the Seattle Process (which is a lot like a food processor left on “Liquify”):

    Let’s Vote On It…Cut and Cover, never say die.

  • Tony December 22, 2014 (6:07 pm)

    If the monorail would have been voted for and built we wouldn’t be in this mess now.

  • Kathy December 22, 2014 (6:12 pm)

    I think the circular tunnel segments are supposed to be earthquake proof – cut & cover, not so much, especially in an area such as the waterfront, subject to liquefaction. I wonder why they don’t just shut down the viaduct? Could it be they are worried people will just adjust to no viaduct, calling into question why we needed the tunnel in the first place?

  • stinkysmokers December 22, 2014 (6:16 pm)

    When you tell people where you are from, they will be snickering laughing at you for this Bertha joke of the century.

    All we have to show for is we are the 2015 Superbowl champ.

  • 935 December 22, 2014 (6:19 pm)

    Cut & cover wouldn’t have worked because of the grade differential between AWV & 99 – apparent at elevated n end of AVW & Battery tunnel. Otherwise cut & cover GREAT option. Same reason surface option fails. Tunnel through seismically unstable soil also a terrible option. No need for any “proof” as the cheerleaders ask for. It is a KNOWN fact that the soils directly adjacent to the tunnel will liquefy during a temblor – hence the grout injection around the tunnel ring to stabilize the soils (what about the soils around the grouted areas?). The question was raised about tearing down AVW & the traffic issues therein. Imagine the traffic stalls in a 2 lane, 2 way tunnel at a max of around 100′ below sea level. With an entry about 10′ above sea level. In a seismically vunerable area….I do NOT want to be caught in that traffic jam. Especially when I have to pay for it.
    Tear down the AVW. Open the waterfront. Expand Spokane street, min 6 lanes – 3 merge lanes from SSV to I-5, widen I-5 from N end Boeing field to U-District. Connect 599/509 to I-5 @ Georgetown.
    Queen Christine can stop visualizing her name on a sign ALA Jeanette Williams….Unless those 40,000 paid cars are in the tunnel when the ‘big one’ hits, cracks the tunnel ring “shell” & drowns all those poor people. At least if the shaking starts on AVW, we can jump for it & maybe land of squishy soil.
    Here’s why the grade differential is too great…. http://alkibikeandboard.com/stus-news/

  • Tbone December 22, 2014 (6:39 pm)

    I would like to laugh, but really I can’t. I think back to when Gregoire got elected, how Dean Logan kept finding new boxes of ballots ‘lost’ under mysterious stairwells that needed to be added to all the subsequent recounts, which eventually gave her the election over Dino Rossi… Christine Gregoire largely created this thing that NO ONE wanted, was never a good option – ever!

    I’ve always thought that certainly the viaduct could be retrofitted and upgraded for safety, much easier than any other option, but Seattle (or at least the leadership) seems fixated on making mobility for individual cars as difficult as possible. Noble? Maybe in an ideal world. Not so much when you have businesses to run, multiple meetings all over the Seattle area… Social engineering doesn’t work so well then. In fact I really resent it.

    I will laugh once I leave what is on the cusp of becoming Detroit 2.0.

  • Smitty December 22, 2014 (6:44 pm)

    Where are all the “move along, nothing to see here” folks who claim this stuff happens all the time and is just part of the process?

    Their numbers seem to be dwindling….

    Join the fight!


  • les December 22, 2014 (6:54 pm)

    935 Thank you for your brilliant comment.

    Bertha should be renamed Christine after our former governor and the horror movie.

  • wscommuter December 22, 2014 (6:56 pm)

    The contractor has been paid 70% of the bid amount because the contract requires those payments … and the payments are required because the contractor has completed the milestones required to receive those payments. WSDOT cannot withhold payment because of Bertha being stopped right now. However, the same contract does indeed allow WSDOT to recover damages for late performance and cost overruns. The two realities – WSDOT making progress payments under the contract and STP later being financially responsible for cost overruns, etc. are not mutually exclusive. Construction disputes are resolved this way all the time (see Brightwater as an example – King County paid that contractor progress payments despite the late/over budget work and then later recovered its damages when the project was completed).

    So chill folks. I realize all the anti-tunnel people get all worked up when problems come up. News flash – this project was never going to be problem free and more problems may arise. Big, complicated infrastructure projects are never easy or simple.

    And for all of you comparing to Boston’s Big Dig. Ask anyone back there if they’d rather it was never done, or whether the new infrastructure they got hasn’t improved that city dramatically.

  • Richard December 22, 2014 (6:57 pm)

    How about a new grass roots campaign?:


  • dsa December 22, 2014 (7:00 pm)

    People are copying old comments forward that have been rebuffed.
    Cut and cover would have worked. It was a viable cost effective alternative. An example of cut and cover that has been in place for around 50 years is the Battery Street tunnel. It’s just a covered ditch, very simple to construct, waterproof and earthquake proof since there are no long spans.

  • dsa December 22, 2014 (7:10 pm)

    Tbone, you are absolutely correct. Seattle would not allow a retrofit because that meant the state would not include the cost of a new seawall. Once the seawall cost consideration got into the project analysis, special interests prevailed over engineering decisions.

  • dobro December 22, 2014 (7:10 pm)

    “I will laugh once I leave what is on the cusp of becoming Detroit 2.0.”

    Go on and make your getaway. There will be 5 to take your place here in the fastest growing city in the US. You know, the place where everyone wants to live. You might like Orlando Florida or Omaha Nebraska. Great local government there and,surely, no traffic problems.

  • Tbone December 22, 2014 (7:16 pm)

    @wscommuter, whether WSDOT recoups payments or some settlement after the fact is irrelevant. Cost overruns fall solely on City of Seattle residents. They’re the ones on the hook, after the lawyers and everyone else gets their cut. Fact. Everyone with a Seattle address will paying for this for years and years and years…

  • carole December 22, 2014 (7:22 pm)

    Tony, I not only voted for the monorail on every ballot which it appeared, I was a lucky June car tab renewal, so I got to pay for it FOUR times, while the majority of car owners paid three times. And we four-timers got no refund. And no monorail.

  • Tbone December 22, 2014 (7:22 pm)


    Yep, I’m sure you’re right. I will be happy to be going and happy that there maybe 5 people in a bidding war on my house. Win-win!

  • Wsparent December 22, 2014 (7:56 pm)

    Lol… All i can do is laugh at all the people who thought this was a good idea… What a mess. Worse than boston’s big dig…

  • 935 December 22, 2014 (8:16 pm)

    DSA – Guilty party here. I did copy and paste, because my point is valid. And simple to comprehend. Cut and cover could work, if one would cut grade deep enough. Theoretically possible, but so is a 17.5 m boring machine….possible-but not likely.
    Do you drive AVW? if so, pay attention to the grade differential at Alaskan Way (not the viaduct, the surface street on the water) and the Battery Tunnel.
    If one were to cut and cover a tunnel on the waterfront, one would have to cut a chasm up to the north portal through Belltown and the Denny Triangle area. The right of way ALONE would take several decades to attain – and at what cost? One would then have to cut through the grade (see the cross section link provided in my last post) to attain a slope that would work for passenger vehicles-agreed to keep commercial vehicles off.
    Far easier to widen I-5, SSV and tie in 599/509.
    Keep Alaskan way a surface street, bring the street cars back, develop a boardwalk/promenade. All while leaving the non native and structurally vulnerable loose soils underfoot alone.

  • WESTSIDE ROB December 22, 2014 (8:33 pm)

    Cut and cover! Hell I SAY CUT & RUN!!

  • joel December 22, 2014 (8:44 pm)

    and Seattle wants to host the Super Bowl? I can see the NFL coming out to survey the area and getting on the next plane home……the 2017 date is a joke – who says Bertha will even be recovered and if it’s recovered it won’t get stuck again….in the next 90% of the dig….remember it’s only gone 10% so far….it’s like the Hawks being at the 10 yard line and thinking we’ve almost got a touchdown…..so the state says to sort out the costs later with STP? really…. when you are talking billions of dollars wouldn’t you just maybe want to have THAT conversation NOW and not later? any comment from Murray on this one – or is he busy getting the next property tax hike ready for the next ballot?

  • SLS December 22, 2014 (8:45 pm)

    This whole thing never was about commuters and traffic. It was about landowners along the waterfront who wanted to improve their view and property values. I agree with PSPS on the suggestion to reconnect the SoDo portion of 99 with the remaining raised structure, retrofit the remaining portion to the Battery Street tunnel and end this madness.

  • joel December 22, 2014 (8:56 pm)

    wscommuter….have you researched anything on STP and their lawsuits? sure WDOT can SAY – STP will pay (what else would they say to the media?) – BUT the reality is STP has a history of prevailing in court. one case against them in California has been going on for over 20 years. STP recently won 80 million case from the Boston Dig…that was 15 years ago and lawsuit finally resolved. there was a cheaper bid than STP but WDOT picked STP because they said they could get it done quicker….and now look at the mess. WDOT did not even consider the CEO of the company and his track record in court. he’s not flying around in a corporate jet (and charging us tax payers for it) because he’s a stupid guy. and remember the head of the WDOT has never managed a project event remotely this large….she is in way over her head on this project. google – STP lawsuits

  • LivesInWS December 22, 2014 (9:08 pm)

    Anything else is going to be more expensive now. It would always be cheaper if we’d done something 10 years ago.

  • Laura December 22, 2014 (9:11 pm)

    I would like to see a survey done on the percentage of Seattle residents who still have any faith in this project. I suspect it may be as telling as the percentage of drivers who feel safe on the viaduct. This project is a train wreck and as posted above laughable.

  • KBear December 22, 2014 (9:13 pm)

    Sooo… Other options were already considered, but for the people who weren’t paying attention:

    ANY other option would have required shutting down SR99 through downtown for AT LEAST 2-3 years. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but 99 has been open most of the time through the current construction.

    “Cut and Cover”: Seriously?! Do you understand what the first word of that term entails? You’d be looking at tearing down scores of downtown buildings. Remember, you’re not building a skinny tunnel to 1950’s standards like the Battery Street tunnel.

    “Retrofit”: But you still need a tunnel. And the Battery Street tunnel doesn’t meet modern safety standards.

    “Surface Street Option”: That’s great for people who are going downtown. The point of this project is to get people PAST downtown.

    “Big Dig”: Not even close. Look up the size and cost yourself. This is the laziest anti-tunnel argument of all.

  • Diane December 22, 2014 (9:34 pm)

    thanks for the link; wow, that Vegas saga is way worse than our Hole; does not bode well for our tunnel

  • dsa December 22, 2014 (10:02 pm)

    Who said the whole thing would be cut and cover? Due to the elevation differences I would imagine the north half mile or so would be above surface. Thya’s about where they stack now. But I have not seen engineering drawings.
    Cut and cover is not my favorite. Replace in kind or rehabilitate the existing. Two years of traffic congestion can be dealt with if Seattle would cooperate with downtown streets. No one seems to remember how crippled we were before the high rise Spokane street bridge was completed and only one of two lower Spokane street bridges remained after being hit by a ship.
    Detours during construction can be created if the powers at hand want to build them. What won’t happen is after the tunnel is completed, no provision is planned for the 50,000 vehicles per day that the tunnel will not support in capacity due to being four lanes instead of six.

    It is not easier to widen I-5. Take a look at it.

  • Rufus December 22, 2014 (10:11 pm)

    Ugggghhhh, I can’t take it anymore. What a disaster. I’m embarrassed for King County. I’m ashamed of Seattle and its deteriorating image. When will the embarrassment end? Get a clue, get it right, get it done. I can’t even watch the news anymore. There aren’t any words that can describe the disasters that surround Seattle these days. The city is too far gone. What a mess …

  • Jw December 22, 2014 (11:21 pm)

    935 is close, but not quite there. The grouting from the machine is due to the “over cut” of the cutter head. E.g. The outermost cutting teeth are wider than the rest of the machine. All machines grout because of this… Except maybe in hard rock.
    -a segmented tunnel is MUCH safer in an earthquake because it is built of compression rings. A cut and cover is not. Also the fill soils giving bertha such a problem are along the entire waterfront. Bertha will eventually be below them while a cut and cover would be in them for its full length.

  • pupsarebest December 22, 2014 (11:44 pm)

    I love the tunnel cheerleaders who NOW assert that this was a complicated, difficult undertaking, that problems/setbacks were/are bound to arise—the same proponents of all this predictable insanity, waste, unaccountabilty and ineptitude, who maintained it would be smooth sailing.

  • Mike December 23, 2014 (5:38 am)

    “Ahhhh the Gregoire-Nickels Memorial Tunnel™”
    Ahhhh, you mean the Norman B. Rice Memorial Tunnel™? Yes, if people did their homework they’d realize he was our mayor when the initial tunnel option was being proposed, at a fraction of the cost and completion date LONG before this tunnel was being battled over.

  • Heather December 23, 2014 (8:37 am)

    I second Duff Radke-Bogens comments.

  • wscommuter December 23, 2014 (9:48 am)

    @pupsarebest … I’m sorry; were you under the illusion that this project wouldn’t be complex or challenging? Or are you saying that the only projects that should be undertaken are the easy/no risk choices? Unfortunately, life doesn’t work that way. At all. Ever.

    I understand some people just oppose this project and always have/always will. Good for all of you – you have every right to those views. But I shake my head at the levels of ignorance I read here. One person above blames “King County” (this is a state project; not a county project) and say everything, everywhere is all screwed up. Others still persist in the silliness of patching the existing viaduct or just tearing it down and “spending the money on something else”. Many here seem to offer nothing more than far left and far right anti-government rants. It’s hard to take seriously. I mean, c’mon people … deal in facts.

  • Brian December 23, 2014 (10:19 am)

    @wscommuter: Surely you can understand how fed up everyone is with this project and the general sentiment being “this is a huge disaster with new pitfalls appearing every time they give us an update”.
    Sorry not everyone is up on exactly which county/city/group/contractor/politician to blame. We just know this is a sh&t sandwich and we know it when we see it.

  • Chris December 23, 2014 (10:20 am)

    “And for all of you comparing to Boston’s Big Dig. Ask anyone back there if they’d rather it was never done, or whether the new infrastructure they got hasn’t improved that city dramatically.”

    And the tunnel is going to improve Seattle dramatically over some of the options that were available to Seattle? And, ask the families of the people who were killed when sections of the finished big dig collapsed on them.

    For the money we are spending underground we could designed an beautiful, artful like nothing else in this world, raised option.

  • ChefJoe December 23, 2014 (11:09 am)

    When the state made efforts prior to tunneling to re-enforce structures susceptible to settlement due to the tunnel work, did they accept responsibility for settlement beyond what was predicted/planned for even if the settlement was caused by dewatering by STP repair pits ?

    On pg 482 of the geotechnical baseline report, it was noted that the design build team was partly responsible for designating which buildings needed mitigation efforts and which did not.

  • dbf December 23, 2014 (11:30 am)

    @wscommuter, here’s some facts from our own parson’s/brinkerhoff… Wang seismic design of tunnels. Ground failure pg 8 sec 1.4, Unstable ground pg 48 sec 3.6, Vulnerability of tunnel structures pg 137 sec 6. Keep in mind, they state tunnel failure at 7 mag or above, Nisqually was 6.8.

  • wetone December 23, 2014 (12:09 pm)

    wscommuter has been very pro tunnel from the start and wouldn’t be surprised from past and above comments will be doing the same to the end of the Gregoire-Nickels-Murray Tunnel project. No matter cost, time, or end product if ever finished, that being absolutely zero improvements for the people that need to get around this city. But were the ignorant ones as stated above in prior comment. Must have some other interest ? maybe ones reputation or even $$$. This is the type of attitude that is destroying Seattle and making it a very one-sided and very expensive place to live.
    On the 70% paid that strictly falls on the city and state for wording and due-diligence of contracts and really needs to investigated….. now that’s ignorance…… little late now but a raised structure could of been built right beside the old viaduct with parking and shops underneath or better yet moved the convention center under new roadway. Then adding more lanes when the kept open viaduct was torn down. With convention center gone I-5 could of been opened up with overpass through downtown… just thinking….. this city is growing but less road capacity not much common sense there and will have big impacts on future business and personal lives.

  • pupsarebest December 23, 2014 (12:09 pm)

    Ummm, no, I am saying the exact opposite.
    Many people were concerned about just the sort of things that are transpiring with this fiasco, and were shushed and tut-tutted and assured everything would go smoothly and trouble-free, on-time and on-budget.
    Tunnel proponents seem to want it both ways:
    “Relax, it’s gonna be piece of cake”, AND “Relax, these setbacks are par for the course”.
    One does not have to be an engineer to have seen that this project was rife with probable, not possible, pitfalls.
    No, I am not suggesting we undertake only “easy” projects, but as far as risk, yes, when risks are as patently obvious as with this particular project, that absolutely should be carefully weighed and considered.
    I’m about as far from far-right, anti-government as one can be, and abhor the right-wing obstruction of infrastructure improvements and renovation.

  • ChefJoe December 23, 2014 (12:54 pm)

    So pupsarebest, you’d acknowledge that the state made a wise decision to design-build and shift much liability to the contractor. But you’d also have to acknowledge that the state’s waiver to only having a $500 million bond on a project that’s projected to cost 3-4x that is proving to be extremely negligent as these delays pile in.

  • Mark December 23, 2014 (1:41 pm)

    Wondering when the tunnel will be complete? Look no further-
    Cloud computing future cast:

  • pupsarebest December 23, 2014 (1:50 pm)

    Yes, ChefJoe.
    The longer this goes on, it becomes almost as much a scandal as a fiasco.

  • Bryan B) December 23, 2014 (2:09 pm)

    @KBear, good point that the tunnel plan left 99 open for now, but which is worse, temporarily diverting all the 99 traffic onto surface streets while sections of the viaduct are fixed or replaced, or permanently diverting half the 99 traffic onto surface streets after the so-called ‘replacement’ tunnel opens?
    Almost as long as I’ve lived in Seattle I’ve been hearing ‘we have to do something about the unsafe viaduct… we have to move forward!’ So they picked the highest-risk, lowest-capacity, and now longest-duration option. Are we still sure this is forward?

  • wscommuter December 23, 2014 (5:04 pm)

    @wetone … yes, I do believe the tunnel is our best long-term solution. No, I have no stake in the project other than as a person who commutes from WS to downtown and a citizen of this city (is your point that anyone who disagrees with you must be corrupt or somehow compromised?).

    More to the point … you, and perhaps others here, still seem not to get what the viaduct/tunnel issue is about: we have an aging viaduct that WILL come down, perhaps with considerable loss of life, in our next major earthquake. “Fixing” it is not a seismically defensible choice – just an engineering fact. Replacing it with a new viaduct will still leave a seismically vulnerable (albeit somewhat less vulnerable than the current structure) viaduct in place, and in addition, would require tearing down the current viaduct in order to build the new one – meaning no SR99 for 3+ years during construction. Your claim that a new viaduct could be built “next to” the existing viaduct is simply a complete and baldfaced lie. Perhaps your wish, but utterly without any foundation in truth.

    The rest of your post – the personal shots and ad hominem claims about “the people” isn’t much more enlightening. Again … let’s deal in facts. Good for you if you disagree with me … but stick with reality please.

    @pups… kind of the same request to you. I’m not aware of anyone of the pro-tunnel advocates who said “this project will be easy and/or risk free”. Big and complicated projects have risks. We’ve encountered some of those now. That doesn’t make this a “wrong” decision. We tunnel all over the world with this technology. Just today, in London, they are completing a deep-bore tunnel under that city’s aging infrastructure 26+ miles in length. Miami recently completed a similar project under its harbor. We are successfully drilling Sound Transit tunnels all over the city right now. Yes – I get it – Bertha is big and splashy and high profile – but this is just the same technology and geological issues that are addressed in projects around the world.

    @Bryan B … again – the facts. The current Battery St. tunnel only has two-lanes each way – we lose zero – none – zero capacity with the new tunnel. I understand that those of us (myself included) who currently take the Seneca exit or the Western exit are impacted. But I also have seen the design for the Alaskan Way surface improvements and I’m quite confident my own commute will be just fine.

  • WSTodd December 23, 2014 (5:41 pm)

    I cringe every time we get an update. These are the kinds of things us “anti tunnelers” were afraid of. Not just the “normal” kinds of delays to expect, but the unique things to the area…like a massive “settling” when the cutter head isn’t even under Pioneer Square yet. Breaking the drill after 1,000 feet and the best idea is to dig a giant pit in front of it and pull it out. Imagine if it had gone 2,000 feet instead…would they tear down a building to get at it? The voting issue is a little distorted. The truth, if anyone remembers, is that the viaduct rebuild (which included the seawall, which is now an entirely different project underway) WAS NOT voted down. It was only after no majority was reached when the ballots had multiple choices and the viaduct was getting about 30% of the votes – along with tunnel options or just surface street – that the final vote only had tunnel and surface street options. I don’t see that as any sort of overwhelming support for the tunnel, just the special interests of the waterfront developers convincing the council that the affordable rebuild just wasn’t going to let us be a “great city” and getting them to drop the viaduct from the ballot.
    I still support a rebuilt viaduct and will always say we should have went ahead with that option. The Nisqually quake was in 2001 and now it’s a few days before 2015. We could have had the new elevated roadway built and have been enjoying the views of Elliott Bay already as we’re driving.
    I dread what is going to happen when the repaired drill starts moving again…who’s going to pay when some REAL damage happens downtown?
    Oh, and I didn’t even mention the fact that the tunnel will have a REDUCED CAPACITY compared to the existing viaduct! Way to think about the future…good thing there aren’t a lot of new apartments and condos being built in WS right now, because we’d probably need a SR99 that would be able to handle the extra traffic..(sorry for the last bit of sarcasm)

  • pupsarebest December 23, 2014 (5:52 pm)

    Wow, I guess I’m just imagining that the many valid and now-vindicated concerns voiced in the run-up to this fiasco were downplayed.
    Your citing examples of other tunneling projects here and there about the region and world only sharpens the criticisms of the atrocity unfolding before our eyes—or are some of those projects also mired in similar dire circumstances?
    Regardless, I am not going to get in a pi** ing match with you; we disagree, and time will tell who is “right”.
    Believe it or not, I hope your sunny predictions for completion are accurate.
    Happy Holidays!

  • Dbf December 23, 2014 (5:54 pm)

    @wscommuter, gave you the FACTS … Just Google “Wang- Seismic design of tunnels”. By their own recommendations, the soil they are working in is not suitable in our little part of The ring of fire… 7.0 or greater could be catastrophic…

  • dsa December 23, 2014 (7:31 pm)

    wscommuter, I just noticed your assumption that because the Battery Street tunnel is only four lanes, this Bertha’s tunnel will not be under capacity if finished. What you are clearly leaving out are the two drop and add lanes at the Western Avenue, which is the northern portal to the Battery street tunnel.
    Those connections are very important to West Seattle. They connect us to the Seattle Center, lower Queen Anne, Interbay, Magnolia, Ballard, points north, and they with *us*. If you don’t believe it just try going there *without* using those connections. Or wait until August 2017 if it ever comes. With a little more luck Bertha will be buried right where it is.

  • 22blades December 23, 2014 (8:12 pm)

    Too Big to Fail; The Big Dig II.

    Time to bury Bertha… six(ty) feet under.

    This sure is “Ground Breaking Technology”… Literally!

  • Mike December 23, 2014 (8:27 pm)

    It’s a good thing the tunnel is bored through ROCK and not just the landfill on which our current (and if it had been approved, replacement) viaduct is on. Liquefaction Mitigation my friends, that’s a much bigger concern to me than drilling a hole through rock. Every project our state, city and county is involved in has cost overruns. 520 bridge replacement anyone? How are those leaky pontoons doing? I’ll take a tunnel (strong) over a viaduct (pathetically weak) any day.

  • Dbf December 23, 2014 (8:54 pm)

    @Mike, which “Rock” are you referring too? Very little present in our tunnel process… Our glacial till and landfill in that area has no stability…

  • dsa December 23, 2014 (8:59 pm)

    Sorry Mike, the tunnel is not being bored through rock like you thought it was, wrong part of the country for that.

  • JVP December 23, 2014 (10:07 pm)

    I’m still a tunnel supporter. Agreed that STP is making mistakes, I wish they didn’t use such a lawsuit-happy company, and I hated the idea of being the “biggest ever” drill. Risky being biggest ever.
    A bored tunnel is still the best long-term option. Seismically stable, last hundreds of years, and interest rates are really low right now. And we’ll turn from a city with a blighted waterfront so a world class city. It’ll be worth it. I’m taking the long term view on this one.

  • wetone December 24, 2014 (11:11 am)

    One thing I am very curious about is what will happen to tolling cost for tunnel as finish date keeps moving and cost grow. Will tolls on other area roads be implemented to help differ cost ? something that could impact many.
    wscommuter, never said I was against a tunnel, what I am against is something tunnel, viaduct, bridge or roadway that does nothing to improve things as this tunnel does and sold to the public as doing.
    Accessibility is worse for area, traffic not improved along with making the SODA traffic area much worse, no room for separate transit lane, and having no options for future upgrades or bike path. That’s what I don’t like about this tunnel. I know it wasn’t designed for any of those things, so I guess will have many more cost coming soon to implement those stated above. About the name calling and such all one has to do is look at past stories and comments so Merry Christmas : )

  • ChefJoe December 24, 2014 (11:25 am)

    Merry Christmas wetone.

    btw, SoDo area

  • wetone December 24, 2014 (1:00 pm)

    Thanks ChefJoe, Hopefully I’ll get it right next time, always learning :)

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