HIGHWAY 99 TUNNEL: Pausing as the halfway mark gets closer; photos from tour today


(WSDOT image)

ORIGINAL REPORT, 4:26 PM: Since its last maintenance stop ended in mid-July, the Highway 99 tunneling machine has dug 1,000 feet. Another 500, and it will be at the official halfway mark. But right now, WSDOT says, the machine is stopped down “to inspect and replace some of the larger cutterhead tools on the front end … STP chose to check the tools – and change them as needed – because Bertha has moved from clay into a mixture of sand and gravel that will more quickly wear them down. Replacing the tools now will preserve the machine and ensure it continues to function well as it mines toward STP’s next planned maintenance stop.” You can read the full update here, and you can go here to see where the machine is now – that’s also the page that tracks its progress, currently listed as 4,135 feet along the planned 9,270-foot tunneling route.

ADDED 9:36 PM: A West Seattleite who has long represented our area on Viaduct/Tunnel advisory groups, Vlad Oustimovitch, is sharing photos tonight from a tunnel-project tour earlier today. First photo shows a used drilling tooth that was replaced today, as part of the work mentioned above:


Next, you’re looking at “giant rollers” that hold up the tunnel-building part of the machine:


Here are the pistons that push the machine forward once rings are in place:


Another view from inside the tunneling machine:


Here’s the control room:


And “the tail end” of the machine:


Back outside the machine, in the already-built 4,135 feet of tunnel, here’s a look at the upper deck:


Oustimovitch was one of “about eight” people on today’s tour.

18 Replies to "HIGHWAY 99 TUNNEL: Pausing as the halfway mark gets closer; photos from tour today"

  • West Seattle Hipster August 31, 2016 (5:05 pm)

    Thanks for the update!  Wish the other media in this city covered stories like you guys do.

  • TheKing August 31, 2016 (10:33 pm)

    The seawall went over budget, this money hole, as many predicted is now 225 million over budget. Incompetence and irresponsibility are rampant. No way ST3 can pass. No way. Taxpayers must understand the burden being passed on with the poor decision making taking place. 

  • dsa August 31, 2016 (11:10 pm)

    Thanks for the update.  Is there a picture of the support system for the upper deck?

  • dsa August 31, 2016 (11:25 pm)

    Is this supposed to be sections of the upper roadway driving surface?  Am I reading it correctly?


    If so, it looks skimpy.

  • West Sea Neighbor September 1, 2016 (7:53 am)

    Truly impressive achievement, and am looking forward to it finally being finished!

  • Blinkyjoe September 1, 2016 (8:27 am)

    What are they doing with the used cutter teeth? Rehab and re-install? I might like to have one as a piece of Seattle memorabilia! Or if I can get a couple donated for a fund-raising auction, that’d be cool.

  • Neighbor September 1, 2016 (8:38 am)

    Wow, cool pictures!!! I can’t wait for this to open. 

  • miws September 1, 2016 (8:47 am)

    Blinkyjoe, if you don’t get an answer here, you may want to contact Milepost 31 in Pioneer Square. 

    I actually have a souvenir  chunk of the viaduct, (No, not  a piece that fell off and hit me in the head—-but part of the southern demolition several years ago) that they were giving out down there about four years ago.


    • Blinkyjoe September 1, 2016 (9:32 am)

      Thanks Mike, great info.

  • Lagartija Nick September 1, 2016 (11:10 am)

    The King, Sound Transit is not WSDOT. Yes, WSDOT is is overseeing yet another big project that is overtime and over budget. Sounds Transit on the other hand has completed several big projects under time and under budget, including 7 or 8 tunnels. Please stop confusing the two agencies and spreading misinformation.

    • chemist September 1, 2016 (11:43 am)

      ST2 is mostly on time and on budget, after ST1 was severely delayed/scaled back and still overbudget.

      • Peter September 1, 2016 (12:11 pm)

        That’s old news, but the anti-transit folks seem to think initial estimates being off twenty years ago is somehow a valid argument for opposing transit we badly need. Very sad.

  • LAintheJunction September 1, 2016 (9:33 pm)

    Tracy, I’m sure you’ve covered this already and I just missed it, but what’s up with the not-yet-functional streetlights on Hwy 99 just north of the current tunnel, where the KING 5 studio was just demolished? Are they really going to have a stoplight on a major highway? I just can’t see how that is going to end well. Did you already do a story on this?

    • WSB September 1, 2016 (9:38 pm)

      No, haven’t heard about those. Drove that stretch about a week ago and don’t recall seeing anything unusual but … it was at night. Try looking through the north portal info: http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/Projects/Viaduct/Schedule/North

      • vlado September 2, 2016 (8:15 am)

        There are emergency lights and barriers planned for both ends of the tunnel, that might be what the comment is referring to.   They will be activated when there is an accident inside the tunnel or some other reason to close it.

        • LAintheJunction September 2, 2016 (9:00 am)

          Thanks to both of you for replying — Tracy, the lights just went up about a week to week and a half ago, and are still covered up so they would be easy to miss in the dark.

          Vlad, what you say re: emergency lights makes sense, far more than having an actual stoplight on the highway! I thought it may have been some misguided attempt to assist Nbound traffic with the dangerous right turn off 99 onto the side street, which is always a mess in the morning. But a full stoplight would have just been crazy cakes. Thanks for the reality check.

          • M September 2, 2016 (8:30 pm)

            The intersection you are talking about is part of the street grid that will be reconnected when the tunnel is open. You can see where the exit from the north portal of the tunnel will be and you can see that it won’t intersect where these lights are.

Sorry, comment time is over.