Highway 99 tunnel project: No digging yet; pier repairs to start; ‘upward movement’

(WSDOT image)

After three weeks of tunnel-machine stopdown, still no restart plan, but WSDOT is just out with another project update, saying that work is about to start to fix pier damage done in the process of barging what was being dug out. Also: No new sinking – instead, some “upward movement”:

Seattle Tunnel Partners is set to repair damage that occurred at Terminal 46 during the Jan. 12 barging incident. STP will remove 22 damaged timber piles from the pier at the northern edge of Terminal 46 and replace them with temporary piles. Work is expected to begin in the coming days and could take up to 10 days to complete, according to STP.

WSDOT and STP continue to work together to address the “suspension for cause” that halted tunneling and barging operations on Jan. 14. STP crews are prepared to remove excavated soil by truck if tunneling resumes before the pier at Terminal 46 is repaired.

You can watch the pier repairs unfold on our construction camera. The labels on the image (above) call out some of the key elements you’ll see in the regularly updated time-lapse images.

Ground monitoring update

It’s been approximately two weeks since Seattle Tunnel Partners turned off the deep dewatering wells that were used to control groundwater near the access pit. There was some upward ground movement in the days following the shut-off, but the movement quickly stabilized. The degree of movement tapers off over several city blocks and is uniform in nature, which poses little to no risk of damage to the Alaskan Way Viaduct or buildings.

Some ground survey points in the vicinity of the pit show as much as 3/5 inch of upward movement since Jan. 22 when STP began turning off the wells. Some of the Alaskan Way Viaduct columns and buildings show similar movement.

STP had additional, shallower dewatering wells in operation during the tunneling machine repair effort. They turned off the final two shallow wells on Thursday evening. STP and WSDOT continue to monitor the ground, buildings, utilities and the viaduct.

When the digging stopped last month, WSDOT says, 1,280 feet of tunneling was complete, of the expected 9,270 feet.

23 Replies to "Highway 99 tunnel project: No digging yet; pier repairs to start; 'upward movement'"

  • Pile-o-Rox February 5, 2016 (10:34 am)

    This is an example of total, abject, and complete incompetence. We should all look to this as a microcosm of how our city and state government handle complex issues. They just can’t seem to get out of neutral, but have no problems spending billions to remain in idle. Pathetic. None of those in charge, from the politicians to the contractors, appear they could run a road side hamburger stand, let alone a major infrastructure project.  

    • Jon Wright February 5, 2016 (1:25 pm)

      Struggling with “complex issues” is not limited to government. Local private sector examples include the 787 and Windows Vista, big projects that encountered a lot of problems and were very late. While I am certainly disappointed and frustrated that the tunnel is so far behind schedule, I don’t think it is appropriate to single out government for vilification.

  • Smitty February 5, 2016 (10:56 am)

    Boy, if they delay this thing long enough I may not ever have to worry about the “tunnelgeddon” traffic nightmare this expensive piece of crap will create. #retirebeforetunnelgeddon

  • Eric1 February 5, 2016 (11:22 am)

    Hmmm..  Lets see, didn’t WSDOT  claim that the sinking “does not present conclusions about the effect of dewatering.” when they started pumping.  I guess if the lay person can add 1 plus 1, somehow WSDOT engineers can’t add that up?  I guess that is what they mean educated beyond usefulness; Or more likely, neutering by lawyer.  But I guess they tend to choose the guys that will toe the company line and tell you that just because the 520 pontoons are filling with water, it doesn’t mean they leak.

  • T. M. February 5, 2016 (12:54 pm)

    The conclusion should never be the premise in an objective analysis.

  • dsa February 5, 2016 (1:04 pm)

    It sounds like tunneling will resume shortly.  I hope I’m wrong.  I hate this project.

  • David February 5, 2016 (1:32 pm)

    (sigh) Everyone calm down.  It’s JUST a tunnel, it’s not magic and it’s not billions over budget or other crazy things people say.  Sound Transit (separate organization) tunneled through Beacon Hill (light rail running for years now), and finished tunneling under I-5, under Capital Hill and to UW Husky Stadium (done) all with no problems….they’re 3/4 way done tunneling (no problems) from UW to Northgate Mall.  It can be done. This entire project has one issue.  The machine broke.  Sucks.  I’ve had cars break, stove broke last year, computers break.  Sucks.  They repaired it…it’s working fine now.  This latest stopping is JUST a political stunt so the gov and powers that be can look “in charge”.  They’re pretend to wrangle for another few weeks, then restart it, finish the project..everyone will forget about this and move onto some new issue to whine about.That a sinkhole formed right above it on the waterfront…expected frankly.  That’s not soil…that’s fill (sand/gravel/junk) from reclaiming the tidelands and turning that area into usable city at the turn of the 20th century.   Everyone knew that would settle…if you didn’t you don’t have any grasp of engineering.    Once the thing hits REAL soil (compacted by centuries/millenniums) then the risk drastically drops…but while it’s close to the surface of this junk fill dirt..not unexpected.  Just move and finish the thing.  We’ve 90% done with the rest of it (street reconfigurations, ramps, etc) and 1/9th of the tunnel dug…just finish it and move on to new issues to complain about.

    • AMD February 5, 2016 (8:16 pm)

      The Beacon tunnel did have a problem.  It caused a sinkhole that nearly swallowed a house.  This project has more than one problem.  They didn’t stop the project because of the broken cutter head, they stopped it because STP promised there wouldn’t be sinkhole-casing soil disruption above the area being excavated and there was.  If they can’t pinpoint why it happened, they can’t stop it from happening again.  The state would like to know what happened and make sure it doesn’t happen again because if another sinkhole that size opens again, it’s going to topple something much bigger than a two-bedroom house.  It was not “expected” by the contractor or the state that a sinkhole would open over the waterfront.  It was explicitly stated that this would NOT be a problem.  Yes, most people assume there would be a problem, but STP promised there wouldn’t.  And they’re being held accountable to the standard they themselves set.  You’re doing a disservice by dismissing erring on the side of caution as a political scheme.  Facts are your friends.

  • A J February 5, 2016 (2:34 pm)

    Voters didn’t want this project….just the city and bigwigs to make more money off the land.   The retrofit would have been perfect.  Waste of time and money…..and they want to put a toll on it.   And if an accident happens there is now way to escape to another street.   This sucks

    • chemist February 5, 2016 (4:45 pm)

      They have escape hatches in the tunnel if things get bad, but you won’t be able to drive into them.

  • Rick February 5, 2016 (3:06 pm)

    But,but,but if you keep throwing boatloads of our money at an ill-conceived project that will make a few folks fabulously wealthy it becomes “too big to fail” (heard that one before) for negligible benefit to those very same people who pay for it,it’s just plain out of our hands. And remember, when you vote on these types of projects,be sure you vote the right way. (Like it matters) I’m not as stupid as you look.

  • Les February 5, 2016 (3:06 pm)

    Was Lynn Peterson fired today ?

  • K. Davis February 5, 2016 (3:10 pm)

    @David-you shouldn’t offer rational thought and measured reason to interfere with the anti-government/anti-tunnel engineering “experts” who come out to rant eveytime the project has a problem.  You shouldn’t interfere with a good ignorant rant.  

  • Smitty February 5, 2016 (3:46 pm)

    Yes K. Davis.  Absolutely nothing to see here.  Move along…….Classic.

  • Pile-o-Rox February 5, 2016 (3:50 pm)

     @K. Davis – I am neither anti-government, nor anti-tunnel engineering.   I am anti-incompetence.   And incompetence is all over this project in spades. As of December (i.e., before the shut down) we were already looking at being 3 years past the original completion date (which has already come and gone).  Please tell me again why cut and cover would not work? 

  • dsa February 5, 2016 (4:15 pm)

    Yes I heard that Lynn Peterson is gone.  That should help with tolls, but probably not with the tunnel.

  • Mickymse February 5, 2016 (4:33 pm)

    This is an example of voters getting what they should have expected… after ignoring the warnings of opponents and supporting the project and, more importantly, the leaders who championed it at the ballot box.

  • K. Davis February 5, 2016 (10:23 pm)

    @Pile … a cut and cover  tunnel along the waterfront has to turn inland to do what the Battery St tunnel does now – transition through the regrade to become Aurora Ave.  The big problem with cut and cover is how to make that transition – from below sea-level (buried tunnel, right?) to the elevation of the Battery St. tunnel.  It would take an extraordinary ramp to do that.  

    • chemist February 6, 2016 (10:07 am)

      Actually, it was pretty well planned out. Youtube has a video “Alaskan Way Viaduct — Tunnel Alternative” from December 2006 posted by AlaskanWayViaduct that shows how it would have worked, eventually going through the battery street tunnel. All the water issues could have been dealt with like they’re doing with the seawall now.

  • TheKing February 6, 2016 (12:13 am)

    At least the 2nd avenue crowd will have a nice view of the waterfront if this all collapses.

  • dsa February 6, 2016 (1:34 am)

    They could still retrofit the viaduct.  It would connect to Western on the north and 1st on the south, downtown in the middle and be independent of through traffic on SR99.  Of course that would make it a city street.  But one level could be bikes only :)

  • Robert February 6, 2016 (8:34 am)

    for those of you that forget history as it happens, remember the tunnel machine was broken during testing IN JAPAN..it was shipped broken, installed broken ,and broke in 1000 feet.the people that think that steel can heal itsself, well they are going to make millions on the property that the viaduct sits on ..only the taxpayer will loose.with propper maintaince the viaduct could have lasted many more years.it could have been boxed in to reinforce the superstructure for earthquake protection for less than half of the cost of the tunnel machine alone..  so we get reamed again for some political hack’s benefit…

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