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    Digging It: As Bertha bores, tunnel geeks everywhere will be watching

    Doug MacDonald goes inside the world's most sophisticated tunnel boring machine. Whether you're a tunnel fan or foe, the TBM that will dig it is super cool.
    Seattle's tunneling machine is state of the art

    Seattle's tunneling machine is state of the art Photo: Doug MacDonald

    I’ve had personal acquaintance with half a dozen or more tunnel boring machines (TBMs). Including a 25-foot diameter cutterhead TBM I lived with – or suffered with, more accurately – for nine long, cold, wet, hard rock miles below the floor of Massachusetts Bay. In its time, the 1990s, that machine was one of the largest TBMs the world had yet seen.  

    On Tuesday, I got a good look inside the new Seattle TBM, the one that will bore the new, Viaduct replacement tunnel. I clambered up and down ladders, inched along catwalks, balanced by holding tight to bronze hydraulic fittings and finally crawled on my knees past a steel bulkhead right to the center core of the monster machine now poised in a pit west of Qwest Field: the green, for now, “cutterhead” that will rotate and scrape and grind its way under Seattle. Jammed into quarters made tight with hydraulics and electronics, I marveled to my guide Greg Hauser, Deputy Project Manager for Seattle Tunnel Partners, “I’ve never seen anything like this.”

    “That’s because there’s never been anything like this,” replied Hauser (below), a lifelong project-hardened mole – as tunneling engineers often are called – without batting an eyelash. “This, for a machine, is almost unbelievable. I call it a work of art.”   

    Hauser is in charge of testing, launching and operating the TBM. No cockiness accompanies his awe at the scale, power and complexity of the machine. He’s grateful for what he calls the “shakedown cruise,” slow and cautious, that will soon begin for the first 1,500 feet underground.  He spends his time already anticipating the challenges of tuning the machine’s operation and its delivery of each daily advance.

    A lot of tunneling goes on around the world, most of it unheralded by surface dwellers for its importance to modern infrastructure. At  57-feet across, Seattle’s new machine has a handful of recent forerunners that approach its scale. But this TBM is big, really big.

    It weighs in at 7000 tons, the equivalent of more than 30 orange and black BNSF Dash 9 diesel locomotives. Its 24 huge electric motors — that's the #18 motor below — generate the 25,000 horsepower that will slowly rotate the cutterhead (at about one revolution per minute) as it chews and grinds the ground – TBMs don’t actually drill into the ground. The TBM’s 56 thrust jacks that push the rotating cutterhead (the business end of the boring machine) against the ground ahead exert 44,000 tons of thrust, or 13 times the thrust of the engine and booster rocket that lifted the space shuttle into orbit. The machine is powered by what is essentially a 26 kilovolt extension cord. Seattle City Light built the dedicated feeder line just for this purpose. An extension cord!  

    Seattle’s press and public get a close-up look at the behemoth on Saturday before it starts to disappear underground sometime next week. It will re-emerge after its 1.75 mile tunnel drive to Aurora Avenue North near Denny Way.  But the machine is already an international rock star, engaging engineers and other experts who are now in Seattle from Spain, Japan, Germany, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, Russia and France, and just about every corner of the United States. The homegrown workforce of building trades men and women, including sandhogs, operating engineers and electricians bring valuable, pertinent experience from Sound Transit and Brightwater tunnels, has never worked on a TBM like this. 

    Moles everywhere will be keeping tabs on how well Seattle’s TBM performs. And how will performance be measured? There are, of course, a myriad of measures to be tracked every day, indeed every hour by command officers like Greg Hauser and their teams. But the two key parameters are utilization and production.

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    Posted Fri, Jul 19, 12:44 p.m. Inappropriate

    Mr MacDonald will face accusations & charges of criminal actions and unacceptable incompetence sooner or later. Sooner rather than later is preferable even to MacDonald associates who will likewise be charged with incompetent derilection of duty that led in these instances to tragic outcomes. Credit republican leaders who fought back, Ms Rivers and Don Benton, two to be commended and awarded profound respect.

    Mr MacDonald, it is NOT wild speculation to calculate that watery, clay and soft fill soils are an ABSOLUTELY INAPPROPRIATE application for this scale of bore tunnel too close to vulnerable buildings. The FEIS 'Stacked' Cut/cover is the ONLY appropriate seismic-stabilizing tunnel with the desirable 'impermeable' seawall replacement to control and reduce underground water flows.

    You are wrong, mister.
    You will face these charges.
    Your career is over.

    Wsdot & SDOT directors & department heads will face similar charges related to Mercer West, Alaskan Way boulevard, seawall soil-stabilization 'preferred' technique (compounds underground water channeling problem), and the closing of Battery Street tunnel and Broad Street Underpass assumptions. Engineers outside Washington ARE embarrassed for the whole lot of you Pugetopolis smart ass pukes and most haughtily unconservative fossil fuel frackers and spewers.


    Posted Sat, Jul 27, 12:49 a.m. Inappropriate

    Thanks, Wells, for discussing the facts on this disastrous project, and please keep posting in this, and other threads, that discuss the region's focus on "smart growth" techniques that are seismically unsafe. The other posters, obviously, have "competing interests," and are associated with the "smart growth" development industry, who has built hundreds of poorly reinforced "smart growth towers" in the region, and plans to build more of them along the coast of Puget Sound, where they will collapse in the next tsunami and earthquake. Tens of thousands will die, as you already know, in the next 9.0 subduction zone quake, expected in my lifetime - and up to an equal number will die in the next fault on the Seattle fault - also in my lifetime (next 60 years). I posted more comments below. Gov. Inslee should immediately halt the tunnel with an Executive Memorandum.


    Posted Fri, Jul 19, 5:28 p.m. Inappropriate

    Excellent article Mr. MacDonald.

    Sadly, Wells is one of the naysayers in this world who doesn't have a clue. I'm sure he's not an engineer, just a clueless fool. There are many engineers including those from the USGS that have reviewed this project and given it a thumbs up.

    I believe that this will be a major success for every one. Bertha is an EPBM type machines like Togo, Balto, Brenda and the other TBMs that successfully dug the Sound Transit tunnels under Beacon and Capitol hill. They were all built specifically to handle the soft soils and glacial till as you find in Seattle. But EPBM TMBs have been used all over the world very successfully from subways to dam projuects. My bet is that Bertha will complete her task ahead of schedule wowing everyone.

    Is their some risk in this construction project? Yes, but frankly most of that danger is right at the beginning of the project. The first 500 yards will be the most challenging. This is wet fill from the Denny Regrade. However after that point the tunnel will make it into stable glacial till and before you know it, this beast of a machine will be breaking through on the other side.

    After which Mr Wells and his negative predictions will be forgot. Especially by him.


    Posted Sat, Jul 20, 11:23 a.m. Inappropriate

    These negative predictions are not wild speculation. Severe soil destabilization will occur slowly over time, invisibly undermining vulnerable historic buildings beyond repair, forcing their evacuation and demolishment. In an earthquake, buildings could collapse suddenly with a death toll in the hundreds or thousands. Once the bore tunnel is in, the dire threat is permanent. Every sensible person in Seattle will remember that the potential for sudden building collapse will keep even clueless people away from Pioneer District and the waterfront. Engineers who aren't paid to ignore dire threats issue warnings.

    Warning: The Deep Bore Tunnel will be a catastrophic failure. Prove that warning wrong, acbystesia or stfu. Perhaps you won't mind admitting to yourself that you were made the fool later when this ignored and forgotten warning is sadly proven to be only too credible.


    Posted Sat, Jul 20, 2:46 p.m. Inappropriate

    If this were true, the entire downtown core of Seattle would have had buildings falling down a long time ago. This will be a deep bore tunnel under thousands of pounds of pressure from the earth above it. That pressure will be balanced by the TBM itself as the cutter head shaves the soil in front of it and passes through that void the cutter head creates, and then the shield of the TBM and then finally the concrete rings of the tunnel itself.

    There is really nothing unique about this tunnel except it's size in diameter. Tunneling through glacial till with TBMs or tunneling in high ground water pressure environments are both very common. It is a challenging job, but a couple of hundred years of mining and tunnel expertise has prepared these engineers from accomplishing this feat.

    There are dozens even hundreds of tunnels that are under large bodies of water. To the North of us in Canada, there is the Massey Tunnel which goes under the Frazier river. There are 18 transport tunnels under the river Thames, some that go back to the mid 1800s. NYC has about a dozen railroad, subway and highway tunnels under both the Hudson and East rivers. In SF BART built it's subway tunnels under the bay. There are countless other, even long tunnels under large bodies of water, including the 33.46 mile Seikan undersea tunnel in Japan, the Channel tunnel, which at 31.4 miles, linked England and France., the Chesapeake Bay Bridge tunnel in Delaware, the Miami Port tunnels. In Korea, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Germany, France, India. In China they have completed at least 6 in the last 5 years, some that are under the ocean. In fact, China has plans to build a 76 mile under ocean tunnel tunnel across the Bohai strait. How would you like to drive for a full hour under the ocean?

    Engineers are not paid to to blindly give a thumbs up to a foolhardy project, they are paid to lend their expertise in building the wonders of the world from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Grand Coulee Dam to sending a man to the moon.

    The sky is not falling Chicken Little.


    Posted Sun, Jul 21, 11:44 a.m. Inappropriate

    Those who mention 'high ground water pressure' but refuse to consider its affect upon a bore tunnel, undermine any reasonable case for the DBT. Once underground waters reach the DBT shell, they are forced to spread above, below and along its length (approx 3000' to the south portal), creating a 'mud bed' which enables movement and ossilation that transmits vibrations the entire 10,000' length of the DBT. Underground waters also cause 'siltration' and the formation of cavernous voids which collapse soils beneath building foundations above.

    A cut/cover tunnel, OTOH, compacts soils below and solidifies unstable soils along its east side. Along the west side, a Cut/cover/Seawall combination is nearly impermeable to water thus most ideal for controlling underground water flows and their impacts. Moreover, a cut/cover will not ossilate nor pose the danger of snapping DBT steel bolts that connect miles of segmented seams. The weight of the DBT itself is enough in a mud bed to cause its own failure. Incidental and complete flooding can be managed better with a cut/cover tunnel depth of 70' as opposed to DBT depth of 180'. Emergency evacuation is also safer with a Cut/cover.

    Because Seattle sits directly atop a major 40-mile east/west faultline, earthquake forces will bounce off a cut/cover, but roll over a bore tunnel, adding the weight of shifting soils that compound pressures that transmit bore tunnel vibrations and cause voids to collapse and soils to shift upward as well as collapse downward.

    The DBT is entirely unique in its close proximity to vulnerable buildings above. Boston's Big Dig tunnel is a cut/cover near vulnerable downtown buildings. Bay Area BART Transbay Tube is NOT a bore tunnel.


    Posted Sun, Jul 21, 3:29 p.m. Inappropriate

    To Wells, aka: Chicken Little and his post marked Sun, Jul 21, 11:44

    While it is possible that a cut and cover solution may have been a better choice, I think your argument is over the top paranoia. As I have mentioned, there are countless projects all over the world in tougher high ground water conditions and seismically challenged than Seattle.

    Yes the BART Tunnel is not a bored tunnel, but the Seikan tunnel and the English Channel tunnel are bored as is the Kuala Lumpur SMART Tunnel which not only winds it way beneath skyscrapers, also has to do with Flash Floods a few times a year. The Seikan Tunnel crosses a couple of seismically active faults as will the new Chinese Tunnel across the Bohai strait.

    BTW, pointing out the Boston Big Dig tunnel being a "cut and cover" tunnel doesn't help your argument as probably no project in US history had more cost over runs. It exposed the major inherent problem with Cut and cover tunnel and that is the cost involved in moving utilities throughout the entire route.

    The worst argument against this tunnel project is the one you are making. It will NOT make the buildings above it any more vulnerable to earthquakes or voids in the soil. Their effect on the buildings above is totally independent of the deep bore tunnel.


    Posted Mon, Jul 22, 1:04 p.m. Inappropriate

    An evidence-based argument contending the DBT is unacceptably risky engineering is not paranoia. Paranoid fear is without evidence. The Boston Big Dig Cut/cover is a fair comparison. Your absurd cost overrun argument ignores ultimately costly high risk. The HSR Channel Tunnel is a pair of 20' diameter bore tunnels rather than the 60' diameter of the DBT, plus there are no buildings above as with the DBT bore vs the Big Dig cut/cover. Your only argument is to question my personal credibility to make these charges of incompetence and worse. IOW, you haven't made a credible counter-argument.


    Posted Mon, Jul 22, 11:11 p.m. Inappropriate

    Mr. Wells, you have not presented an evidence based argument that the sky is going to fall or the buildings for that matter.

    Yes, the Seattle Deep Bore Tunnel is 57.5 feet wide, but done right this will not cause the ground to move any more than a 20' tunnel(actually the Channel tunnel is 25' in diameter, not 20') but this doesn't really matter except during construction. BTW* the Kuala Lumpur SMART Tunnel winds it way under High Rises and has to deal with substantially more water than the Seattle's Deep Bore Tunnel It is also a very wide diameter bored tunnel measuring 43.71 feet in diameter. There have been countless actual engineers working to design this project. They are not building it to fail.

    I'll trust the actual engineers building the project as opposed to armchair quarterbacks yelling at their tv sets. You should look up the word credibility and then go get some.


    Posted Tue, Jul 23, 4 p.m. Inappropriate

    "Mr. Wells, you have not presented an evidence-based argument that buildings are going to fall. The 58' diameter Seattle Deep Bore Tunnel constructed right will not cause the ground to move any more than a 20' tunnel ~(Not true). This problem only matters during construction. (Not true). The 44' diameter Kuala Lumpur Tunnel winds it way under high rise buildings and deals with more water than the Seattle DBT ~(and?). There have been countless engineers working to design this project ~(Nonsense). They are not building it to fail ~(Not true). I'll trust the engineers building the project rather than the armchair quarterbacks. You should look up the word credibility and then go get some."

    I'm a general contractor, construction worker in the energy conservation field. Akbee Tesla should learn how to edit the BS. Credibility can be demonstrated in written word. I'm credibly proficient at presenting credible argument. Akbee Tesla is a wannabee who hasn't yet been through the long learning process.

    Oh and BTW, I checked with an Oregon State wetland hydrology department and learned USGS neither studied nor approved Seattle waterfront soil conditions as appropriate. Wsdot studies were probably conducted by private contractors for the right price, more if pretermined outcomes are required. Hah! (^=}


    Posted Sun, Jul 21, 2:14 p.m. Inappropriate

    acbytesia, your comments are interesting. I agree that the bore machine and bore work is fascinating, and we hope well engineered (who can forget the sinking of the I-90 pontoon during a Thanksgivings weekend storm due to human error, and who can forget the most recent DOT foul-up with the concrete floats for the new 520 bridge? Danger! Danger! Will Rogers!)

    However, I have yet to read any intelligent or thoughtful response to the two major complaints from users and taxpayers. These 2 major complaints are the underlying reasons most of the naysayers will never quit saying "STOP, just build a new viaduct." And then they will move away, to a new city/county where politicians do not so blatantly ignore public comments and ignore common sense.

    1. This stretch of tunnel will cost in excess of $4 BILLION dollars, for approximately 2 miles. Taxpayers cannot afford this cost for such a tiny project in Washington State.

    2. This extravagant tunnel and roadwork costing in excess of $4 BILLION dollars, will NOT move more vehicles every day. It will never move more vehicles every day. It will mover far fewer vehicles each day, forcing 30,000 to 50,000 vehicles each day into downtown Seattle surface streets.

    I will not be one of those inconvenienced drivers. I moved my business north, and ship mainly via water these days. I avoid Seattle like the plague it has become, which is sad, because I am a 3rd generation Seattleite, raising a 4th generation, who is soon to be moving as well. We all just say "done, over, can't stand ya".

    It is not the growth, it is the war against cars, and the massing up of housing so people cannot get a break from each other. That's not the Seattle I was raised in, nor is it the Seattle I feel will be successful.

    Posted Sun, Jul 21, 3:40 p.m. Inappropriate

    I'm not sure where you are getting the $4 Billion dollar estimate as the contract for it including the new Alaskan way surface street which will provide the access to downtown that is lost with the subtraction of the two Viaduct exits is half that cost at 2 Billion.

    From my perspective, the one reason this project is the best solution is that IMO, is the least disruptive to traffic during construction. The ability to keep traffic flowing through our city during constructions is immeasurable. I also believe the combination of the new Alaskan Way and the tunnel will be fine. My only problem with this project is the toll. I think they should find any way possible to avoid a toll on the tunnel as the toll will encourage people to go around the tunnel which defeats the purpose of the tunnel. That being said, the toll is designed to pay for only 20% of the cost of the project and people are already trying to find a way to supplement the toll through other funding.


    Posted Tue, Jul 23, 8:33 a.m. Inappropriate

    There have been a great many articles outlining the cost budgets for this project. Never has there been a project of this magnitude in this state, and to think it will come in at or under budget is naïve.

    The tunnel is just like a big house remodel -- by the time you decide to spend xyz to remodel the kitchen, it's pretty easy to emotionally justify spending xxyyzz to remodel or rebuild the whole house and yard too. But the bottom line ... for the net result of traffic flow, this bore tunnel project is a mobility mistake, and we simply cannot justify, nor afford the cost of the $4.2 BILLION dollars.

    "The budget for the entire tunnel project, including the portals, property acquisition and management, is about $1.96 billion and the cost estimate for the entire viaduct replacement project, which includes work to demolish the southern stretch of the viaduct and the city's plans to build a new waterfront park, is $4.2 billion."

    Btw, parking under the viaduct hasn't been cheap for years.

    Posted Tue, Jul 23, 11:19 a.m. Inappropriate

    First off, 2 Billion dollars is not the "budget for this project" it s the contract for this project and this is not a "cost plus project. Also, there are no "add ins' for this project. This is not the "Big Dig" of Boston which was actually 8 times this large with multiple on ramps,exits, interchanges and bridges. It also has a built in contingency and STP, the GC is responsible for going over budget.


    Posted Fri, Jul 19, 10:44 p.m. Inappropriate

    And now as we are presented with another round of tunnel press releases disguised as news let’s not forget that no other proposed configuration (especially this tunnel) matches the existing viaduct in any transportation related category. The rights of ways already exist. The elevated configuration already can handle 110,000 vehicles a day. It already provides a bypass for downtown and off ramps for the core, Ballard and West Seattle. It already meets the demands for commercial vehicles. It could easily incorporate modern seismic protections and other enhancements for noise abatement, bikes, pedestrians and aesthetics. It acknowledges the fact that rubber-tired, multi-passenger vehicles (cars) are still the choice of over 90% of us. And a replaced or refurbished viaduct is a over a billion+ dollars cheaper than this sub-optimized tunnel joke that cuts capacities and access by almost half, increases congestion downtown and costs billions more than an elevated solution.


    Posted Fri, Jul 19, 11:57 p.m. Inappropriate

    I have to wonder jmrolls, at what point will you stop campaigning against the tunnel? My guess is that you will be complaining after the Bertha breaks through near Mercer Street in 14 months and maybe not then.

    This is the solution the government chose to proceed with and it only took a decade of fighting about.

    Get over it.


    Posted Sun, Jul 21, 2:24 p.m. Inappropriate

    One must never, ever say that just because "the government chose to proceed with it and it only took a decade of fighting about" without realizing that this project never had mass acceptance by the public ... which makes the "government who chose to proceed with it" non-representative of the people.

    That has got to stop.

    acbutesia, you are the one who needs to Get Over It.

    You have your fingers in the financial pie in some way, that I can see. Step away from the steaming pile, and view this mess from the point of view of cost per vehicle - astonishingly out of scale with any other road project in Washington, or any other state for that matter.

    Posted Sun, Jul 21, 4:25 p.m. Inappropriate

    I have no financial interest in this project at all. I don't own any downtown or waterfront real estate, nor money in construction, or any connection to Seattle Tunnel Partners at all.

    I listened to the debate on this issue going on ten years. No solution was perfect. I wouldn't have been against a "cut and cover" tunnel or even replacing the viaduct with another elevated highway although I would have been concerned about the congestion that most likely would have caused.

    I do think I slightly favored one of the tunnel solutions but honestly could have cared less which was chosen.

    Frankly, my problem is people second guessing after the fact because they didn't get their way. I'm sick of government gridlock in Seattle. Stop talking and "get er done" is my motto.

    Take Sound transit for example. Their process from start to finish even small parts of adding to the line is a ten year process!!! This is absurd as the majority of the New York Subway system was built in 2 years!!! Modern construction methods allow us to complete projects in record time so why do all these projects take substantially longer than they did in 1890? The government process of "including" everyone in the process. Court challenges and NIMBYism.

    Enough of the chat..grab a shovel.


    Posted Mon, Jul 22, 1:29 p.m. Inappropriate

    I have to wonder why I have to "get over it"? The project is moving forward and I'm not complaining. You are. The government proceeded after a decade of discussion and two elections. I think that is more than enough,

    I've been involved in elections where I've lost, sales that I've lost and causes that I've lost. What I don't do after it's obvious I've lost is what you are doing. Whining and carping.


    Posted Tue, Jul 23, 8:44 a.m. Inappropriate

    Whining and carping? The cost and reduced mobility make this project wrong.

    Wrong is wrong. Allowing any 'government' work to continue on simply because it's been being discussed for a decade or more is not appropriate. The 'government' did not involve the people by vote in this expensive project, and that cannot be forgiven.

    Posted Tue, Jul 23, 1:29 p.m. Inappropriate

    It is "whining and carping" because this is the solution the people chose. It is "whining and carping" because this project is actually more than 25% completed. Or in case, you haven't noticed that half the viaduct has already been demolished, utilities have been moved, an entire substation was built to power the TBM, A launch pit with 15 foot concrete floor was built Pilings have been dug. The Atlantic street overpass was built for trucks going to the port, not to mention 80 million dollars was spent to build the TBM that is specific to this project. The TBM is in the launch pit and is about to start digging.

    So yes, you are "whining and carping". I can understand that you may have thought another solution would have served the community better and I respect people for fighting for what they think is best. But there is a time to surrender and that time was a long long time ago.


    Posted Tue, Jul 23, 9:01 p.m. Inappropriate

    What people "chose" this? No vote was taken.

    Wrong is wrong.

    Posted Thu, Jul 25, 1:58 a.m. Inappropriate

    In fact there was a vote. Or have you forgot??


    Posted Sat, Jul 20, 11:08 a.m. Inappropriate

    The 6-lane 'stacked' cut/cover tunnel in the FEIS most closely 'matches the viaduct' in terms of managing traffic, and is for this reason too the only sensible tunnel option. MacDonald knows this, but fearing imprisonment, denies culpability for punishable offenses committed during his tenure at Wsdot when the planning process and state studies were 'rigged' to keep this cut/cover tunnel option from a fair public consideration during the 2007 voter referendum. It is 'least disruptive' to construct as the only cut/cover that could be built without having to tear down the AWV first. MacDonald did not want voters learning this cut/cover option existed so he could promote the alternative he and his business cronies favored, an elevated monstrosity, jmrolls. After the referendum, further studies of cut/cover tunnel and surface/transit options were likewise rigged, yet, the stacked cut/cover made it into the FEIS as most ideal.


    Posted Sat, Jul 20, 2:59 p.m. Inappropriate

    The "cut and cover" technique would have been far more disruptive than the deep bore tunnel and it is likely that it would have been as expensive or more expensive. The problem with "cut and cover" is the necessity to tear up the entire path from one end to the other and moving all of the utilities in the way. In the downtown area of Seattle, this would have been grossly impractical. Why dig up two miles of streets, pipes, sewer, electrical utilities not to mention the dealing with the foundations of the large buildings above. Because unlike the Deep Bore option that went under these foundations, the cut and cover method would have been undermining the foundations of some of the large buildings along side it's path.


    Posted Sun, Jul 21, noon Inappropriate

    The 'stacked' cut/cover tunnel was the least disruptive, yet even that disruption was exaggerated in the Wsdot studies. Wsdot proposed to build a 6-block trench between Spring and Main streets in the first phase, then proceed from the middle to the portals at Pike and King streets. Building a tunnel from the middle outward and lifting soils to the surface and removed with dump trucks makes little sense when the excavation could proceed from the south portal northward in 1- or 2-block segments that once completed would return the surface to temporarily adequate use and most soils removed underground to the south portal. IOW, Wsdot rigged these Cut/cover tunnel studies to be more disruptive than necesssary, a punishable offense. Avoiding construction disruption is NO EXCUSE for constructing an absurdly inferior tunnel option.

    At this point, I'd just like to say: Mr MacDonald, you sir, are a coward. You'd best put together your Condoleesa Rice excuse, ie, "Who could've known the bore tunnel would be such a catastrophic failure?" or something to that affect so you may avoid imprisonment and continue collecting your undeserved pension.


    Posted Sat, Jul 20, 6:39 a.m. Inappropriate

    acbytesla, will you force the "government officials" who decided to proceed to pay for all of the cost over-runs out of their own pockets?


    Posted Sat, Jul 20, 12:30 p.m. Inappropriate

    Well acbytesla, I’ll probably always be annoyed by special interest driven capital projects like the tunnel that deliver less and cost more. The tunnel/surface option is a terrible substitute for one of the most successful north/south arterials in the city. It will add to the tax bill of the over-taxed, and it will add to the congestion faced by regional commuters. It’s another example of Seattle’s leadership demonstrating that it cares more about how the city looks on a post card than the mobility of its citizens. About “getting over it” I think that since the costs and deficiencies are permanently built into the tunnel project I’m sure I’ll still be annoyed no matter when and where Bertha shows up. Bad ideas don’t get better over time.

    What would you do if the government announced that it was OK to eat the yellow snow?


    Posted Sat, Jul 20, 3:16 p.m. Inappropriate

    While we can argue over the best way to have replaced the viaduct, the fact is that the viaduct absolutely needed to be replaced. Whether by another elevated highway, cut and cover tunnel or surface street option. It has to be done.

    Frankly, I was tired of the government dysfunction. It was times like this that I hate democracy. 10 years was too long to "discuss our options". Make a decision damn it!!! I hope we don't take ten years on what to do with the waterfront after the Viaduct is torn down.

    As for the Viaduct itself, I'll always miss the view it presented to me while driving across it. But on the other hand I was always a bit nervous driving across it. The view across the sound was spectacular and I always wanted to drink it in, but the lanes were narrow and I had to discipline myself not to look. But any time I ever walked around below it. I hated it. It was loud noisy, dirty and dark. It's subtraction will make the city more inviting for tourism and a big plus for the citizens of Seattle.


    Posted Sun, Jul 21, 8:33 a.m. Inappropriate

    There’s no argument about the best configuration (tunnel/park or elevated) to replace the viaduct. That answer is obvious if you keep the criteria to things like capacity, access and accommodating the needs of commuters. And don’t forget about the enormous costs. After all, it’s a transportation project isn’t it?

    The process wasn’t ten years. I think the tunnel/park idea showed up near the end of 2008. The adoption was a lot of PR, phony referendums, influence pedaling and back room deals. Check this: http://crosscut.com/2009/03/26/crosscut-blog/18899/When-Chopp-speaks-parse-closely/

    I think you’re going to be missing more than the view if you find yourself among the 30-40 thousand commuters who will now be faced with making their way through and around downtown surface streets at rush hours because of the limited capacity of the tunnel/park.


    Posted Sun, Jul 21, 12:49 p.m. Inappropriate

    Yes the process took ten years. The Nisqually Quake happened in 2001. Government futz around with dealing with this problem for a grotesque amount of time. Could we really have waited for another ten years to come up with a solution? Frankly, I don't know what the best solution is/was. But after a solution is decided upon, it's time to get on board, not harp and whine about the decision.


    Posted Sun, Jul 21, 2:33 p.m. Inappropriate

    I always liked it under the Viaduct. It was above ground, and yes, dirty and noisy, but no dirtier than any other street in Seattle. We used to be able to park there for free or nearly free. Who cares about noise when you're just parking the car??

    As crime grew in Seattle, 'under the Viaduct' certainly did became more violent, and scarier - but that had nothing to do with the Viaduct, and everything to do with crime, drugs, homeless people, and thugs. Building one more vast waterfront park will just be a new home for scary people to hang out in.

    Posted Sun, Jul 21, 3:47 p.m. Inappropriate

    I couldn't disagree more. Seattle's waterfront without the viaduct will be spectacular. That massive hulking structure that cast a shadow on everything, obstructing every view.

    I can see why you like it...as a cheap parking space, but it will be so much more. You won't have the cheap parking spot, but the city will have so much more. I can't wait to see the city without it. In ten years, nobody will miss the Viaduct.


    Posted Sat, Jul 20, 6:49 p.m. Inappropriate

    Thank you Mr. MacDonald for eloquently sharing this overview of the project and the feat of engineering required to accomplish it. This is Crosscut at its best. (great pics, too!)

    Posted Sun, Jul 21, 10:38 a.m. Inappropriate

    So, how is the bored material handled? Passed behind and trucked out or carried on a conveyor belt? And then where will it go? Just curious.

    Steve E.

    Posted Sun, Jul 21, 12:38 p.m. Inappropriate

    It depends on the tunnel machine and the project. In this case it is carried out by conveyor belt that winds it way to a dock just North of the Launch Pit. From there a barges will transport the bored material (muck) to an old quarry pit near Port Ludlow.


    Posted Mon, Jul 22, 2:40 p.m. Inappropriate

    I wish Crosscut would quit giving Douglas MacDonald a platform to spout off from and now that he's not the head of WSDOT he keeps looking for another bully pulpit.


    Posted Tue, Jul 23, 12:31 p.m. Inappropriate

    Anytime a ranter commenter hits the third or fourth repetitious posting, I tune out. C'mon folks, Crosscut used to be a forum for rational comment threads. The thread here is an unreadable mess.

    Posted Tue, Jul 23, 3:32 p.m. Inappropriate

    We can give thanks, us grouchy old contruction workers and truck drivers, that the CRC I-5 project has been "shelved" for now, about 2 years (I think) cuz Marine Drive and the 'Expo-to-Hayden' local road projects are shovel-ready, their cost $450mil. Credit Kitzhaber for Oregon still ahead in its planning.

    Inslee has fewer accomplished experts to lend his trust. Washington State highway & transit DOT agency projects are questionable. Especially the deep bore tunnel, (DBT), which incurs too many high risks for worst case scenarios going wrong. Worst soil conditions. Wrong tunnel type. Seawall techique is NOT recommended because underground water channelling, siltration and void problems can worsen unpredictably. Vulnerable building foundations damaged beyond repair. Forced Demolitions. Limited replacements. The Seattle faultline in earthquakes is high risk for damage and collapse. Indeed, unperceived cavernous voids collapse and then buildings above collapse. A Bengali deathtoll is possible.

    We are grateful the CRC was shelved because Wsdot bad engineering is apparent on the DBT worse than imaginable. Those who know better, will stop the DBT and related street projects.

    Seattle seems like zombie ground zero.
    Sometimes a zombie makes the Editors Pick list.
    Zombie no like to read. Eyes, brain, no work good.


    Posted Tue, Jul 23, 3:54 p.m. Inappropriate

    My name is Wells, I'm a whiner, I'm a carper, I'm a sore loser. I'm Chicken Little. What I'm not is an engineer. The Deep Bore Tunnel construction project has been reviewed by engineers from the USGS and they determined that the project was and is safe. The Deep Bore Tunnel is designed to deal with 9.0 earthquake, which is a 1 and 2500 year event.

    The project was approved through a democratic process. It is more than 25% complete and yet you waste your time whining and second guessing.

    Do you harbor any delusions that you will get your way and people will come around to your way of thinking and stop it's construction?

    Silly rabbit.


    Posted Tue, Jul 23, 9:03 p.m. Inappropriate

    Silly wabbit. Details aren't so important to you, eh?

    Posted Wed, Jul 24, 11:38 a.m. Inappropriate

    My name is Art Lewellan. I have advocated for and witnessed many successful light rail systems across the West and nation since 1992. In the learning first years my contributions to the field added perspective that advanced streetcar 'integration' as complementary thus value-added.
    I designed a 6-mile single-track monorail that circled SeattleCenter and from KOMO south with low-impact routes. Estimated cost $500 Million. Performance: More ridership than the $5 Billion Greenline fiasco. I've designed a remarkable Waterfront Streetcar Line and a Trolleybus reconfiguration that smart ass transit wonk/wannabee/potheads don't care to see or consider, cuz like, you know, like uh, like oh wow man....huh?

    My list of accomplishments is long. I don't have time for this Ackbee Tesla oxymoron BS. Others are reading my analysis and acting on it. I'm a gifted engineer with designs that can become proprietary. In other words, another Oregonian (or Oregon itself) is being squeezed by a few rich Washingtonian pricks and their envious clueless minnion/twerps.


    Posted Fri, Jul 26, 10:27 a.m. Inappropriate

    The last estimated 9.0 quake to hit the Seattle faultline was around 900, 1100 years ago, not the 2500 years Akby Tesla supposes. Several major but lesser quakes have hit the area since, roughly on a 300-500 year repetition, the last was around 1700.

    The Bore tunnel will soon create and sit in its own mud bed 3000' in length from the south portal. This mud bed will NOT securely support the weight of the bore tunnel. Earthquake forces will push the DBT side-to-side in the mud bed creating vibrations that will transfer its entire length beneath Belltown and to Denny Triangle. Soils will settle and vulnerable building foundations will be damaged beyond repair. Replacement buildings will face the same uncertainty. Ignore this warning and Seattle will suffer.


    Posted Tue, Jul 23, 9:44 p.m. Inappropriate

    Why would a “transportation” project design (meaning moving commuters, commerce, etc. from one place to another) be chosen that has half the access and capacities of the 60 plus year old structure that it is designed to replace, simply to enhance the property of a few downtown developers? And at a higher cost to tax payers than any other option. Are you serious?

    If you’re going to be a hooker for these special interests you should get a little background…understand the history and the facts and try and not call people names.

    And I see that Crosscut has awarded another 1st Amendment Editor’s Pick to –R on Beacon Hill because this miasma of free speech makes him tune out.



    Posted Wed, Jul 24, 10:36 a.m. Inappropriate

    Give it a rest already. Sheesh.


    Posted Wed, Jul 24, 11:43 a.m. Inappropriate

    I checked with an Oregon State wetland hydrology department and learned USGS neither studied nor concluded Seattle waterfront soil conditions are appropriate for the DBT. Wsdot studies were probably conducted by private contractors for the right price, more if pretermined outcomes are required. Hah!
    Predetermined outcomes!


    Posted Wed, Jul 24, 6:41 p.m. Inappropriate

    Give what a rest? The succinct truth in just a few sentences?

    "Why would a “transportation” project design (meaning moving commuters, commerce, etc. from one place to another) be chosen that has half the access and capacities of the 60 plus year old structure that it is designed to replace, simply to enhance the property of a few downtown developers? And at a higher cost to tax payers than any other option. Are you serious?"

    What gives? It's the war on cars, continued ... goodbye Seattle. You are no longer adaptable, flexible, creative, fun or tolerable.

    Posted Fri, Jul 26, 7:44 a.m. Inappropriate

    I did not realize cars equate to creative, flexible fun!

    I am not sure how I had such a grand time in Tokyo, NYC, etc., etc. since I did not get in a car once.

    If there is a 9.0 quake, the last thing we will be worried about is the tunnel. If anything, you naysayers should be glad the capacity is down so less people are killed.
    There will be much more property/life destruction that has nothing to do with this tunnel.


    Posted Fri, Jul 26, 12:13 p.m. Inappropriate

    Ya. Tokyo and NYC are really prime examples of what Seattle should become. NOT.

    Cars and mobility = creative, flexible fun, and better paying jobs because the better paying jobs rarely are in convenient transit areas.

    Density = stifling, dirty, crime, noisy, and a good place to visit, but not to live.

    A 9.0 quake will be best survived in rural areas.

    Posted Thu, Jul 25, 3:24 p.m. Inappropriate

    Gotta love the internet. Everyone is an expert. No evidence. Just the equivilant of talking heads. Yawn.


    Posted Fri, Jul 26, 1:22 a.m. Inappropriate

    Dear Secretary MacDonald,

    You are forgetting the reality of quakes and tsunamis that will crack the tunnel and flood it with seawater. A 9.0 "Chile" style subduction zone quake will cause massive damage in Seattle, collapsing tall skyscrapers along with the seawall along puget sound. A 7.0 quake on the Seattle fault would cause similar damage, since it occurs at a shallower level.

    When these two expected quakes strike in the next few decades, they will cause tens of thousands of deaths. Hundreds of people will die in the tunnel by asphyxiation, and various government agencies will be sued, for building the tunnel, yet refusing to acknowledge the quake risks.

    Urban fill dirt along the coast of Puget Sound, with a high liquifaction potential, is not the place for a tunnel. Nor is it a place for the planned, tall, narrow, concrete, unreinforced, "Smart Growth Towers," with large glass windows along Puget Sound. The entire coastal urban restoration project, especially the tunnel, was obviously not subject to proper seismic reviews.

    Finally, Washington State Taxpayers helped subsidized my tuition in Geology, and Botany, at the University of Washington. They gave me the knowledge to present intelligent comments such as this one. Why do you and your colleagues not listen to those of us who you have paid, with your tax dollars, to attend your universities? Most importantly, why do not listen to UW Professors of Geology such as Dr. Joanne Bourgeois, who has documented evidence of massive tsunamis and multiple fault zones in the Puget Sound Basin? Why did the State of Washington cancel its Puget Sound basin fault mapping program a few years ago?

    This tunnel project, and the shear amount of extant and planned Seattle "smart growth" projects that will kill thousands with the quakes, is immense. I am not proud to have been born and raised in a City, that refuses to listen to earthquake engineers, such as Dr. Peter Yanev.

    Could you and your colleagues please reconsider this tunnel endeavor? I hope that Governor Inslee reads this, and stops this project immediately with an Executive memo.

    Sincerely yours,
    Tom Lane
    UW and OSU - botany, geology, meteorology


    Posted Fri, Jul 26, 12:15 p.m. Inappropriate

    Good points of concern. However, is no current method to estimate devastating quakes happening within "decades".

    History shows us we *are* due, but there is not a due date that we can predictably measure. Date of quake may be 200 years, 2 years, 22 years or 673 years away. Or not.

    Posted Mon, Jul 29, 4:25 a.m. Inappropriate

    But that is never a reason to not prepare. The Bay Area has upgraded its standards even though it is impossible to predict quakes. It is likely that a 7.0 quake on the Hayward Fault (through Oakland) by 2030. With every day, the chances increase, incrementally.

    Therefore you are in more danger today, then you were yesterday.


    Posted Sun, Jul 28, 1:44 p.m. Inappropriate

    Wow. 35 credits in geology. That must almost make a minor, eh. So vs. the licensed geotechnical engineers, Phd geologists, and certified civil engineers that wrote the technical reports for the tunnel I'd say you are in way over your head.

    Your refute? That we live in a subduction zone with a risk of a large earthquake???? Any Seattle high school student knows this. You obviously haven't read the tunnel technical reports and you certainly present nothing to refute those findings. I only have an MS in a science field, but your lack of an cogent argument and flailing around with generalities is quite unscientific. You think, maybe, those technical reports cover earthquake and liquefaction risk? Duh.

    Come back with a logical discussion and others, including me, will be open to convincing. Meanwhile, no whining.


    Posted Mon, Jul 29, 4:31 a.m. Inappropriate

    The original Caldecott Tunnel from Orinda to Oakland in the Bay Area will collapse with a 7.0 quake on the Hayward Fault. That is well known. Tunnels are risky to design. It is even more difficult to engineer a tunnel that is in an area that could become inundated with water. I know that you guys have screen names and have competing interests in politics and engineering. And, I also know that engineers are sometimes hired by local governments with a clause that the job is done by only meeting the minimum standards, and not the "worst case" scenario.

    I will never stop my opposition to the tunnel and waterfront "Smart Growth" towers. UW Professors and Peter Yanev of Orinda, CA will continue to warn you guys, and I hope that someday you will wake up, resign from your positions as paid consultants to local governments, and start your own independent, honest consulting engineering firms.


    Posted Fri, Jul 26, 9:15 a.m. Inappropriate

    Is this a satirical piece? If so, it's great. LOL. A botany major - with no supporting documentation, cries chiken little. Amazing that 3 teams of hired, independent geologists, civil engineers, geohydrologists - with a mass of reports and conclusions can be swept away with - YES - an unsustantiated opinion. If nothing else this thread is making some great entertainment.

    Collapsing skyscrapers, thousands die, the earth reverses its rotation, godzilla returns!!!



    Posted Sat, Jul 27, 12:42 a.m. Inappropriate

    @ Treker - not just a botany major, but 35+ credits in geology at the UW and OSU, and 15 credits in meteorology at OSU, 30+ credits in basic math, physics, and chemistry, and a masters - someday. So you want supporting documentation? Search "Peter Yanev" for hundreds of articles and web sites and you tube presentations on earthquakes around the pacific rim, including Seattle. Search "Joanne Bourgeois," UW professor of Geology, for her papers on tsunamis and quakes on faults in the pacific rim including metro Seattle.

    A 9.0 subduction zone quake is likely within my lifetime, as is a quake on the Seattle Fault. Each will kill tens of thousands, unless all plans for tunnels and poorly engineered concrete and glass waterfront smart growth towers are canceled by the Governor. Given Dr. Yanev's observations in Chile, which experienced a 9.0 subduction zone quake, then Seattle and Portland - both in a subduction zone - will receive catastrophic damage, with collapsing towers.

    Read Dr. Peter Yanev's book on earthquake preparedness for a general introduction - order at htto://theearthquakebook.com Dr. Peter Yanev's consulting site - http://yanev.com
    Dr. Joanne Bourgeois - http://www.ess.washington.edu/dwp/people/profile.php?name=bourgeois--joanne

    Finally, would you please disclose any competing interests and your real name?

    Given the negativity of this thread, may I suggest that Crosscut require that posters list their real first and last names.


    Posted Sun, Jul 28, 10:42 p.m. Inappropriate

    Don't live in fear young man. Something is going to kill you and it's doubtful that a giant quake will be the thing. Your idea that "A 9.0 subduction zone quake is likely within my lifetime, as is a quake on the Seattle Fault. This region gets those big quakes maybe every 500 years, with the last one being about 300 years ago. Your odds are darned high that you will not be around when the next biggie comes rockin and knockin.

    Will the big one kill tens of thousands? I doubt that too. Tens of thousands??? Possible, not likely.

    Hyperbole loses the audience.

    Posted Mon, Jul 29, 4:21 a.m. Inappropriate

    It will be tens of thousands due to all of the concrete buildings that are not adequately structurally reenforced in the region. The Seattle fault travels under Seattle and Bellevue and therefore under most densely populated areas in the region. Much of downtown and the waterfront is on soft soils and fill dirt which are very unstable. In addition there are faults in the Snohomish area and Tacoma-Bonney Lake.

    Seattle and Washington State do not have very strict standards compared to California. Political leaders refuse to listen to Peter Yanev of Orinda, CA and this is unfortunate. The Seattle development scene is all about a bunch of money hungry architects with their dreams of collecting millions in rent from tall concrete "smart growth towers" with inadequate structural support. They will collapse and thousands will die, instantly.


    Posted Sat, Jul 27, 9:27 a.m. Inappropriate

    I was out of town and just read MacDonald's article and the related comments.

    While I appreciate Doug's insights, it's the comments that caused endless amusement. Priceless!

    Posted Mon, Jul 29, 4:35 a.m. Inappropriate

    They are likely paid consultants working for local governments. Or, they are members of local governments. Doug MacDonald is a high profile person, so his articles will generate significant controversy in the comment threads, among those of us with geology backgrounds. In the end, the paid consultants who fail to plan for "worse case" scenarios, are always proven wrong, since the "inevitable" eventually happens. Hopefully, not in our lifetimes! Instead, hopefully, the Washington standards will be updated to meet those of California, before anything happens.


    Posted Mon, Jul 29, 9:18 a.m. Inappropriate

    OK. That's a stirring factual arument from an geology "expert". I'm convinced.

    "Paid experts" - what? They're supposed to do it for free? This is a great thread!


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