Our Sponsors:

Read more »

Trending Stories

Our Members

Many thanks to Harolynne Bobis and Soojin Kim some of our many supporters.


Most Commented


    Seattle's tunnel: SR's got 99 problems, but the steel pipe ain't one

    Cost overruns and no one to pay them; breaches to a contract we don't want to enforce. Seattle's biggest problem child is a huge hunk of metal, just stuck in the mud.
    Tunneling crews discuss their progress as they operate Bertha, the world’s largest tunneling machine, in November 2013.

    Tunneling crews discuss their progress as they operate Bertha, the world’s largest tunneling machine, in November 2013. Photo: WSDOT

    Crews drill to look for an obstruction in front of the tunnel-boring machine on Seattle's waterfront.

    Crews drill to look for an obstruction in front of the tunnel-boring machine on Seattle's waterfront. Washington State Department of Transportation

    While it's certain that the machine digging the Highway 99 tunnel under downtown Seattle did grind to a halt last month shortly after hitting a steel pipe, plenty of mystery still surrounds the idled earthmover and the future of the multi-billion dollar megaproject.

    Lingering questions about the cause and cost of the machine’s stoppage were on full display Monday, as state Secretary of Transportation Lynn Peterson and Washington State Department of Transportation staffers briefed the Seattle City Council.

    The WSDOT representatives said it was still too early to know much about the price of the delays or whether the pipe was the only problem afflicting the machine, known as Bertha. Peterson also discussed WSDOT's decision to hold Seattle Tunnel Partners — the contractor group running the project — in breach of contract for failing to give an adequate amount of work to minority and women-owned companies.

    WSDOT program administrator Todd Trepanier acknowledged that WSDOT and Seattle Tunnel Partners were under "a lot of presssure" to estimate the cost of the stop-down and when the machine would get moving again. “It would be irresponsible at this time," he said, "for us to really speculate on all those issues."

    The machine has bored about 1,000 feet of the 1.7-mile long tunnel. WSDOT representatives said the contractor and the agency expected the first 1,500 feet of digging to be a “shakedown cruise.” But on Dec. 3, the tunneling machine hit an 8-inch diameter, 119-foot long, steel well-pipe left in the ground by a WSDOT contractor in 2002. In the days that followed, the machine began to experience increased resistance moving forward. The current boring stoppage began on Dec. 7.

    The well site was noted in planning documents for the project, but a Seattle Tunnel Partners project manager said recently that the pipe should have been removed when the well was decommissioned.

    Matt Preedy, WSDOT Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement Program deputy administrator, said on Monday that probing the ground in front of the machine had not helped to confirm the root of the tunneling machine’s troubles.

    “All of our ground investigation out in front of the machine has been inconclusive,” he said.

    Trepanier said the pipe might not be the only problem. “I think maybe that is a contributing factor," he said. "But there are other issues that are being dealt with and wanting to be understood at this point in time on why this machine stopped.”

    There have been difficulties, he said, with material not flowing correctly through the machine and wear to its metal teeth, which weigh about 1,200 pounds each.

    “I don’t necessarily agree with the word stuck,” Trepanier said later, referring to Bertha’s current status. “The cutter head turns, you can mine with this machine. It would be like driving in your car and the warning light is coming on and telling you to stop.”

    Regardless of whether the machine is stuck or stopped, the delays are raising concerns in Seattle. A provision in the state bill financing the project says that any costs beyond $2.8 billion will be paid for by “property owners in the Seattle area who benefit from replacement of the [Alaskan Way Viaduct] with the deep bore tunnel.”

    Mayor Ed Murray, who co-sponsored the bill during his time as a state Senator, says he’d like to convince legislators in Olympia to remove that language from the law.

    At the briefing on Monday, council member Sally Bagshaw pressed the WSDOT representatives on what the current delays mean for the city's finances.

    “You’re talking about cost overruns potentially. One thing I want to clarify is that the city of Seattle is not on the hook to pay those cost overruns,” said Bagshaw. “The city is not party to the contract between you and the state and the partners, is that correct?”

    “You’re stepping into an area that is a little beyond my understanding,” replied Trepanier.

    Like what you just read? Support high quality local journalism. Become a member of Crosscut today!


    Posted Tue, Jan 14, 5:47 a.m. Inappropriate

    What an incredibly deceptive headline. When you actually read the article, WSDOT program administrator Todd Trepanier said the pipe MIGHT not be the only problem. So the author translates that into it isn't the problem?

    There is another reason that Trepanier is being extra cautious that he isn't saying. STP the General Contractor and WSDOT still do not own Bertha.

    We don't take ownership for another 500 feet. So at the moment Hitachi the manufacturer is also on the hook. Maybe people have forgot, but Bertha's delivery was delayed by two months because of a problem discovered after the TBM was assembled in Japan.

    My guess is that both STP and WSDOT are making damn sure that there isn't something else wrong with $87 million dollar TBM before they take full ownership of this beast.


    Posted Tue, Jan 14, 7 a.m. Inappropriate

    Great. Bagshaw and Rasmussen are asking questions about a megaproject that they have no authority to control. Last time the city's councilmembers did that it was the Seattle Popular Monorail Authority that was leading the transportation megaproject. This isn't a good sign.

    Newsflash for Sally and Tom: you two are not in charge. WSDOT is in charge. Moreover, if the Port (for example) hears from WSDOT that its $2.8 billion spending cap likely will be exceeded then the Port commissioners will create a LID and start imposing assessments on hundreds of Seattle property owners. You two won't be able to do squat about it.

    Hey Tom Rasmussen -- you were on the city council in 2009 when it green-lighted this project. The unprecedented $2.8 BLN cap and the overrun provision targeting benefited Seattle property owners was in existence then (that statute was enacted earlier that year). Don't you play stupid about the implications now, the way you played stupid about the abusive monorail authority financing plan.

    Ed Murray is supposed to know what's going on with this megaproject. He just hired Jared Smith from Parsons Brinckerhoff as a full-time assistant to advise him on the waterfront projects. Problem is, there is no way Smith will give Murray or the public straight answers about his former employer's bad acts and omissions, who is responsible for problems, excess costs, or anything else of significance.

    Parsons Brinckerhoff is in large part responsible for convincing the government heads around here to engage in this megaproject:

    For the past 10 years, Parsons Brinckerhoff has served as general engineering consultant assisting the Washington Department of Transportation (WSDOT) in developing alternatives to replace the seismically vulnerable Alaskan Way Viaduct, which runs 3.2 kilometers (2 miles) along the city's waterfront, serving 110,000 vehicles each day. The firm has been involved in virtually every aspect of the $3.1 billion Alaskan Way Viaduct and Seawall Replacement program, including conceptual design of a 2.7-kilometer (1.7-mile) tunnel to replace the viaduct.


    Paula Hammond set this megaproject in motion for WSDOT. She hired the contractor, approved all the WSDOT financial planning, etc. when she was the head of WSDOT. As soon as Christine Gregoire left office Hammond was hired by Parsons Brinckerhoff, and she now works out of its Seattle office. Hammond did not get that fat job because she had spent her time at WSDOT looking out for the public's interest.


    Posted Tue, Jan 14, 7:24 a.m. Inappropriate

    Your post is just stirring the pot. Parson Brinkerhoff is a Global Consulting firm that has been helping cities, states and countries all over the world to plan, design, construct, operate and maintain critical infrastructure.

    You are casting aspersions that somehow PB,city council members and the mayor have been doing something wrong. Granted, you aren't saying what that it is, but it must be something according to you.

    Companies such as PB are essential, because they have the expertise that elected officials never do with projects such as this.


    Posted Tue, Jan 14, 1:20 p.m. Inappropriate

    abcytesla, perhaps, but only perhaps. So far, the level of transparency from Parsons Breakitinhalf and our electeds + the WSDOT is quite cloudy.

    Posted Tue, Jan 14, 1:17 p.m. Inappropriate

    Thanks for stirring the pot. It's necessary to keep from being burned (burned any further).

    Posted Tue, Jan 14, 7:25 a.m. Inappropriate

    It might also be worth noting, crossrip, that the State Senate Majority Leader who helped push through the legislation approving the tunnel is now Mayor of the city it's being (occasionally) built in. I have no doubt that Ed Murray will find a way to fob the cost overruns on this thing on some farmer in Waitsburg who'll never set foot in Seattle, just like Gary Locke fobbed Safeco Field off on taxpayers statewide after Seattle voters turned it down. It's just the way politicians are.

    And anyone who believed it would only cost $2.8 billion is a fool; think more along the lines of $10 billion...this IS a publicly-financed project so nobody in charge is going to give a damn about its cost because they never have.

    All this for a secondary north-south route through Seattle. Brilliant.

    Posted Tue, Jan 14, 7:57 a.m. Inappropriate

    The pipe is NOT the problem. They are several tens of feet past the pipe.

    And Ms. Hammond did NOT go right to work for PB. She was not working for a time and said "I would rather be an engineer building things, than be a domestic engineer". Regardless of the fun we may have using her for a punching bag, me included (pulling the steel-electrics suddenly) she does have a sense of humor about his, and a willingness to engage the sheeples, which I am uncertain that current WSDOT management has.

    It is the pipe, no it isn't--we told STP the pipe was there, then told them to "dig here" right where the pipe was---many players saying Seattle folks wouldn't have to pay for the screwups, yet they voted exclusively for the tunnrl--- on and on.

    Fursure, the farmer in Waitsburg should not have to pay for it, nor should the Geezer in Lynnwood.

    The Geezer has spaketh


    Posted Tue, Jan 14, 8:24 a.m. Inappropriate

    Yes, they are past the pipe, but there is concern that much of the pipe is inside the excavation chamber causing a problem there. There have been difficulties with material not flowing correctly through the machine.


    Posted Tue, Jan 14, 10:22 a.m. Inappropriate

    Geezer, Thank you for reminding everyone about the Steel Electric ferries being pulled from service by Ms. Paula Hammond. This unprecedented and nontransparent act started far deeper economic damage to Port Townsend/Whidbey Island regions because of the lack of ANY notification to anyone: suddenly no car ferry service on that route for far too long.

    Even today, the 2 64-car baby ferries are a disastrous design, wasting far too much space for passengers instead of vehicles, as well as that discouncerting "lean" in the water, so badly that ballast was added to each boat to prevent the lean. These boats are so unseaworthy that every wind storm sees a total cancellation of service.

    For WSDOT to cause so much economic pain to one region is unfathomable. It's lucky that Whidbey has another ferry and a new highway to jump onto at the north end of the island to get over to I-5.

    On and on and on some more. WSDOT is too expensive to continue to be allowed to operate as-is. No taxpayer can afford this waste. Ditto for Sound Transit.

    Posted Tue, Jan 14, 10:48 a.m. Inappropriate

    The pipe question is intriguing (is it an 8" ID pipe…which would be about 9.5" OD? or a 6" pipe which would be about 7.5" OD?). I would think that WSDOT folks must have at least considered the possibility that there would be section of railroad track down in that fill and if it were (God forbid) laying parallel to the direction of the tunnel then, given the problems with the pipe, we'd be back in the soup. Or maybe not. I think I read that Bertha was not designed to deal with steel items in its path. That does seem like a more than justifiable optimism. Then there is the issue of bending the tunnel under the existing Alaska Way Viaduct (stopping all traffic on the Viaduct for the duration)… that has to be a worrisome maneuver. I would expect that area to have higher than average incidence of incidental metal and a long closure of the existing Viaduct does not bear thinking about. Oh well.


    Posted Tue, Jan 14, 11:37 a.m. Inappropriate

    “It would be irresponsible at this time," he (Trepanier) said, "for us to really speculate on all those issues."

    No, it would BE responsible to start calculating the costs of the delays to present.

    It would BE responsible to tell the public that you found a pipe in the first place, instead of hiding the fact for three weeks and allowing irresponsible speculation on buried locamotives and ships.

    It would BE responsible to do your job, which is to be contractor watch dogs, not lap dogs, and make sure they are following the letter of their contracts.

    Mr. Trepanier, your JOB is to get answers for stakeholders. YOU are the State's representative on this project.


    Posted Tue, Jan 14, 1:25 p.m. Inappropriate

    BallarBoo, I'm certain there are already daily costs figured into all the contracts for work stoppages, to be paid by whoever can get forced by contract into paying for those days of costs. Wages, equipment rental/payments/insurance/ the list goes on and on. And up up up.

    This job is too complex for WSDOT; the only way to save money is to stop the boring and build a new viaduct. And save a butt load of moola in the process, and be efficient about moving vehicles in the process.

    Posted Tue, Jan 14, 11:39 a.m. Inappropriate

    Big Bertha may be the perfect metaphor for these times. Super-machine ambitiously chewing through dense muddy sediments grinds to a halt after encountering a forgotten obstacle placed in its path by its operator, whose claims to omniscient and comprehensive planning now seem dangerously suspect. Bureaucrats scurry to cover their butts with prophylactic layers of jargonistic obfuscations and mind-numbing abstractions, while wise elders nod their heads knowingly and struggle to stay awake. Somebody please pass the coffee!

    Optimistic budget projections are tossed out the window. Nobody wants to pick up the bill. Emergent most likely scenario is big machine permanently entombed in muck watched over by an obsolete, crumbling, half-dismantled elevated highway. In some tower penthouse office high-priced lawyers are quietly estimating damages and drafting legal pleadings. Politicians' shifty eyes search the dark corners for scapegoats. Utopian architectural drawings of the Rejuvenated Waterfront are quietly archived. Future projections of expanded waterfront tax revenues are revised drastically downward. Civic shakers and movers stare numbly down into their martinis, scratch their balding heads and start to look for some other great problem to solve.

    And somewhere a frumpy disheveled guy with a scraggly salt-and-pepper beard rides by unseen on his bicycle and smirks knowingly.


    Posted Tue, Jan 14, 1:26 p.m. Inappropriate

    Love this! Thanks for the truth and smiles.

    Posted Tue, Jan 14, 3:26 p.m. Inappropriate

    Well and amusingly put, Woofer. Love the sea salt on the bike.

    May I add, should Big B. get stuck, we should get Koolhaas and Gehry to come back and design some sort of metallic warehouse to cover the spot where it is moored? It can house all the plans, along with schematics for the trains, bridges, monorails and tunnels that have been mooted to escape the destiny of the city's geography.


    Posted Tue, Jan 14, 1:01 p.m. Inappropriate

    I did not vote for Rassmussen because of his arrogant and condensending attitude to questions about, and ignorant broken record support for the Tunnel. Don't let him back away from taking responsibilty for his share now.

    Same goes for Murray. They pretty much own this now. Try as he might Murray is going to have to deal with this sooner or later, and he won't be able to put it off for 4 years. Remember, "should not have to pay," is NOT the same thing as "will not have to pay."

    Hold them accountable at least, and don't let them re-write history here.


    Posted Tue, Jan 14, 2:24 p.m. Inappropriate

    There is not much else that journalists (or commenters on Crosscut)can do but stir the pot and fan the flames concerning the I-99 tunnel, it blockage and its predictable cost overrun. Both the engineering problems and the accounting math are very much beyond my capacity and probably most everyone here. That said, we all know that what is under that part of downtown is essentially shifting fill. So, when you find out the the plan was to use the biggest drill for a tunnel to replace a road that should not even exist if the city was green as it pretends to be, saying No was simple. Even McGinn's resolution confused matters, as did his soft shoe on the stop/don't stop it question. But one thing is for sure: there was a group mind meld in Olympia, spurred on by labor and business--usual suspects--that prevented the cheapest, most rational solution of tear down and replace with a surface road. However, fault as much Murray, Gregoire, and others, you have to add Licata (a surface road would be a pedestrian nightmare), Conlin (once green, now of the darkside), the Seattle Times, Nichols -- everybody except the Stranger, and it was against it for as many wrong reasons as right ones. The deadenders who would have (and will continue) to say repair or rebuild are even worse, since a 2nd Viaduct would have been equally hideous and even more fraught as a construction project, since it would be aboveground. That I submit would have turned downtown into a parking lot.

    Depressingly, I believe now that the tunnel as the solution was made inevitable in the very decision in the '50s to build the Viaduct in the first place. The city has come to depend on the Viaduct as access for West Seattle and a route for trucking. An argument could be made that it is hideous scars like the 'Duct and the idiocy that is I-5 that splits the city in two that prevents the Seattle from floating away on its affluence and affinity for daydreaming. That may be the source the Duct's charm to partisans for a smaller blue collar Seattle. However, the political class could not ignore the possibility of waterfront property without the Duct, nor could it ignore the pressure to have a trucking route through downtown. Thus, the Tunnel. You don't even have to do the math, and perhaps it is easier if you don't.

    I am ready as another to stir the pot about the cost, the danger and the stupidity of the tunnel, but don't pretend it will make the project more "accountable." I will say that if Seattle is on the hook for overruns, I will prepare to fight city hall, the port and Olympia on it, but I am hoping that putting one of theirs in as mayor will prevent that. I also take a measure of pride in that Seattle is commencing two ambitious engineering projects--there are actually three boring machines in the city--as I am a fan of big public projects. (All socialists are.) And I am mindful that grumbling and ranting about the tunnel is I am afraid not just stirring the pot, but pissing the wind. The die has been cast, let's hope that we get a score on the dodechedral dice that will give us a wishing spell. salut, rob crowe


    Posted Tue, Jan 14, 11:51 p.m. Inappropriate

    First, you are mistaken about the geology of downtown. It is not as you say "shifting fill" If it was, it wouldn't have been safe to build the numerous 20, 30, even 60 story office buildings on it.

    While the tideflats and directly along the waterfront has a significant amount of fill which is Zone 1 and part of Zone 2. From there on, it is dense clay and glacially compacted sand, and gravel, excellent material to bore through. It will bore under the Burlington Northern tunnel which was built a hundred years.

    The tunnel only looks stupid at the moment because Bertha is stopped. It will get moving again and most of the second guessing from Monday morning quarterbacks and amateur geologists will fade into the background.


    Posted Wed, Jan 15, 9:12 a.m. Inappropriate

    Don't agree the tunnel only looks stupid at the moment, nor that "Monday morning quarterbacks and amateur geologists will fade into the background."

    For some of us the tunnel has looked stupid every since the first breath that proposed it, and will continue to look stupid for as long as anything about it exists, and perhaps longer. As for fading into the background, I don't see that happening. Perhaps a little research through various media archives will convince you of what I see as obvious--those of us who believe it's the wrong idea, the wrong project, aren't likely to change our minds anytime soon, if ever, and we've been disagreeing for quite a long time now. Not a good indicator that we're going to "fade into the background."


    Posted Thu, Jan 16, 12:11 a.m. Inappropriate

    With all due respect mspat, I can appreciate why you may have been against the deep bore tunnel. There is more of a risk in tunneling than many other types of projects. That I understand. But TBMs are a very effective and on average a very reliable method of tunneling. They can tunnel for mile after mile after mile without a problem and then they can be stopped by an unforeseen geological condition. This is why a thorough site investigation is part of the process. TBMs constructed two 56 mile tunnels through the alps very successfully. That said, there was a time where two TBMs were stuck in the middle due to a spring of water. They were held up for about 4 months.

    I don't expect to change your mind or or others who opposed the tunnel before the project. You are likely to carp about it even after the tunnel is completed. But if the tunnel is completed with a minimum of a cost over-run I don't think the public will be care very much about your whine.


    Posted Sun, Jan 19, 8:57 a.m. Inappropriate

    I am neither carping nor whining. I am simply stating my opinion, which I am free to do. Attacking me for what you presume is my tone should be beneath you. I acknowledge the possibility that this project may finish as you think it will. That won't change my opposition. I will be busy fighting my way through gridlocked downtown on my way to work in Tacoma, or anywhere else I want to go that requires passing downtown.


    Posted Tue, Jan 14, 2:26 p.m. Inappropriate

    This comment was 1st draft of the above. I can't seem to delete it. So I am adding a comment, which is -- this is one of those posts on Crosscut where is it is possible to learn interesting through the comments. There is a lot of noise to signal, but I appreciate the intelligence humor, and passion of folks here. Which is why the Tunnel is frustrating, since it is by far the stupidest decision I have witnessed in the state. (The stupidest decision in the city was all the time and money we spent chasing a monorail. I am as guilty as the next person on that one. Sorry for the newcomer fail.)


    Posted Tue, Jan 14, 2:45 p.m. Inappropriate

    Calling the machine Bertha is an insult to a historical figure. Just kill the project, fix the seawall and repair the viaduct. Truth is the real problem with the viaduct is the failing seawall.

    Posted Wed, Jan 15, 5:54 a.m. Inappropriate

    Killing the project at this stage would be moronic. My bet is 80 percent of the money to rebuild the viaduct has been spent. Contracts were awarded. You can't just cancel them. And whether people realize it or not probably 75 percent of the tunnel has been built.

    Yep, 75 percent. I know you think I'm smoking something but consider we have spent millions of dollars to design this from end to end, millions to perform a site survey and perform an Environmental impact statement, then millions to move utilities, including building a substation to power Bertha. Then 90 million dollars to build her, then millions just to deliver it, millions more to build the launch pit and for the big Red Gantry Crane as well as the people that assembled Bertha. We purchased and installed the muck conveyor system that takes the muck from the machine all way to offload at the dock and another conveyor system at the quarry where the muck is being sent. Then of course there are the concrete segment rings that have been built for the tunnel.

    I saw an interview with tunnel construction manager from STP on tunneltalk.com an industry website for the worldwide tunneling industry. He said that building the infrastructure to support and launch a TBM in an urban environment was far more complex and expensive than the actual tunneling.

    Like it or not people, we long ago went "all in" on this project. I guaranty that "canceling" the project at this point isn't really a viable option. We will have spent 3.1 Billion dollars and still need to replace the viaduct.

    So stop with this nonsense. This tunnel is going to get built, on time and on schedule, or over budget and behind schedule, this is happening.

    So, wake up and smell the coffee.


    Posted Wed, Jan 15, 7:26 a.m. Inappropriate

    I woke up and made some coffee. Then I read your posts, and snorted that coffee out my nose.

    acbytesla, you try very hard to spin the story to a pro-bore-tunnel story, but the truth is louder. The tunnel is far too expensive, the WSDOT is far too inept, and the basic fact that Bertha is stuck because of work that was done "for this project" as you say, shows even deeper WSDOT incompetence than most of us thought was possible.

    Thanks for illuminating so much.

    We simply cannot afford the billions of dollars for this 2-mile stretch of road.

    Posted Wed, Jan 15, 9:17 a.m. Inappropriate

    Agree. While it's true that Brightwater eventually got finished, acbytesla, one of its boring machines is still in the ground as far as I know.

    Unfortunately, I do agree with acbytesla that the project will get built no matter what it costs, now or in the future, but those of us who have warned all along about the waste and futility it represents will be vindicated not only by the horrendous costs, but by people's refusal to use it once built.


    Posted Wed, Jan 15, 11:55 p.m. Inappropriate

    Actually that is not uncommon mspat TBMs are frequently buried at the end of a tunnel drive. There isn't really much a used marketplace for them. They are built specifically for a given geoolgy. It is often cheaper to leave them buried than to remove them and store them and refurbish them for a future job. Often they are buried in cement


    Posted Thu, Jan 16, 6:24 a.m. Inappropriate

    Well, I'm glad I could help you enjoy your coffee cs.

    But I'm not trying to spin the story, just present the facts in an avalanche of misinformation and innuendo.

    It's easy to say that WSDOT is inept when you really don't have a clue what competent is. As for this project being too expensive. Maybe it is is, but we have already bought it. That is a the factual truth. There is little we can do about it now except monitor it. We have done everything except bore 90 percent of the tunnel and build the highway through it. The money has been allotted, the contracts were awarded and the construction has more than just begun. So much of the cost of this project was and is the logistics to support and launch Bertha. Don't you get that?

    Nobody is happy that Bertha is stuck, but abandoning the project at this point does not make financial sense. Do you want to pay STP and the subcontractors for an uncompleted tunnel? Do you want to pay HNTB for all the tunnel segments? Do you want to spend the money to design some other replacement for the viaduct? Should we take another dozen years to figure this out? And how much will that cost?


    Posted Sun, Jan 19, 8:24 p.m. Inappropriate

    abcytesla, who favors unsticking Bertha at ANY cost, seems unreasonably influenced by favoring continuing to pour more public dollars into the muck that has entrapped Bertha. A paid shill usually spins discussions in just this way.

    I'm beginning to feel that we're trapped even deeper than Bertha.

    Waste not, want not does not equate to spending any amount to "fix" stuck Bertha and resume drilling. We won't strike it rich on this job.

    This is the 2 mile stretch to the poor farm that will sap all our extra dollars from our childrens' future.

    Posted Mon, Jan 20, 7:56 a.m. Inappropriate

    Well, one I am not in favor as you say "at any cost". I am in favor of not making rash decisions based on a short delay.

    Two, neither one of us knows why Bertha is "stuck". We also don't know how much the delay costs. Yet you blame the delay on "incompetence" at WSDOT. Which is reckless. Maybe WSDOT has been incompetent in how they have administered this project. But I haven't seen any actual evidence of that.

    I'm sure you will point to the obvious fact that "Bertha" is in the repair shop being diagnosed and repaired. But declaring WSDOT "incompetent" because of this is like blaming the guy who buys a new truck because his new truck broke down.

    Your suggestion that we halt a project that has been designed, engineered with the vast majority of the contracts for the construction awarded and a very significant amount of the construction started to stop for the sake of our children. Yet you don't have a clue what is wrong and what it will cost to go forward.

    And not once do you acknowledge that it is far more likely to cost our children far more money to abandon the project at this point than to carry on.

    That certainly doesn't show a lot of commonsense cs.


    Posted Mon, Jan 20, 9:57 a.m. Inappropriate

    abcytesla, your patronizing words don't provide any evidence of a well-run taxpayer funded office over at WSDOT.

    The total that WSDOT has wasted on this project, on the 520 project, the I-5 derelict bridge falling into the river and many other much quieter, less known errors in judgement, planning and execution of work likely exceeds $100 million dollars in just the last 3 years.

    Do we have an annual budget line item for "POOR DECISION MAKING BY WSDOT" in the State budget?

    Posted Tue, Jan 14, 5:45 p.m. Inappropriate

    "Determining the cause of Bertha's problems is complicated because the area is filled with groundwater. Workers have pumped-off much of the water though this creates a risk that the ground above the machine could sink. Preedy said the agency was monitoring the ground around the viaduct and nearby buildings, and any movement has been minor."

    In other words, Bertha has already altered ground water conditions and caused ground movement near buildings. Whoa! The finished bore tunnel (which descends another 60' or so before its ascent to Denny Triangle) will further alter ground water conditions and cause 'major' ground movement below buildings.

    Uh, let's not give a single thought about collapsable cavernous voids, new water channels developing who knows where, weak seawall replacement failure causing more water to flow wherever, the potentially devastating affect any earthquake along the Seattle fault will have, like, uh, you know, like whatevuh man. Just think about a new pretty beach and pretty fish and plants and fun waterfront stuff and money, okay? Who wants to think about Seattle collapsing into a pile of rubble? That would be no fun to think about.
    La la la la Lah. Sing the Seattler idiot song. La la la, la-lah!


    Posted Tue, Jan 14, 11:56 p.m. Inappropriate

    Of course they have given thoughts to all that you have mentioned. That is why many core samples along the route were drilled in the last ten years. In fact, understanding the geology and groundwater conditions is the reason Bertha hit a pipe. It was a former well drilled along with other to understand groundwater movement in the area.


    Posted Wed, Jan 15, 7:34 a.m. Inappropriate

    Oooohhhh! All those big, smart engineers thought of it all!!! SWOOOOONNNN .......

    Posted Tue, Jan 14, 10:43 p.m. Inappropriate

    One of the most interesting topics in the comments is the groundwater. There's a reason Spring Street has its name - early Seattle residents got their drinking water from springs. So, this raises a question. Just how much water are we talking about at the level where the tunnel will be located, once construction is done? Is there water movement and migration that will be blocked by tunnel? If so, what is the plan for dealing with that water?

    A related question then: in the first 1000 yards, is the mix of water to soil at the forecasted level? Or is this one of the issues alluded to?

    A final question: is there a point at which this whole project becomes too expensive and we look to other options, such as cut and cover or a replacement viaduct?


    Posted Wed, Jan 15, 9:51 a.m. Inappropriate

    In other words, is there a Plan B?

    Posted Wed, Jan 15, 12:03 p.m. Inappropriate

    Yes, there is a Plan B.

    The project FEIS depicts the ideal Cut-Cover Tunnel/Seawall. It was concealled from voters during the 2007 voter referendum, yet is the only tunnel option possible to construct without first dismantling the AWV. The rallying cry of "horrible construction disruption" was a lie. Wsdot was gambling voter approval of the elevated replacement. The first 1000' of bore tunnel can lead to this Cut-Cover Tunnel/Seawall with a north portal near Pike Street. The construction work at Aurora can lead to an extension of the Battery Street Tunnel. There are two options for Lower Belltown: TWO stoplight intersections or NO intersections with SR99 reconstructed below Elliott/Western.
    Plan B is disruptive and expensive, but BERTHA is a murderous whore.
    Rename BERTHA: Crunican or Hammond.

    The poorly engineered AWV is derelict. Plan B includes a solid Seawall
    instead of an unreliable Sea-Fence.


    Posted Wed, Jan 15, 10:05 p.m. Inappropriate

    Repair the Alaskan Way Viaduct as we just did (on time and on budget by SDOT) with the Spokane Street Viaduct.

    Posted Wed, Jan 15, 1:54 p.m. Inappropriate

    After perusing a story with an astonishingly misleading headline followed by the school yard behavior of the comments and reflected upon other transportation dramas that have played out in Seattle, I have concluded that the behavior of the political leaders, economic movers and shakers, gadfly's and even the voters seriously impedes forward progress for the city and the region as a whole. I see a complete lack of realistic vision. Instead what I see is a combination of personal greed, manipulation wrapped in the delusion that someone knows what is best and sometimes the inability to pick a course of action and stick with it. Argue all you want it accomplishes nothing.

    Consider this, the city and region is not well prepared for a major earthquake. While seismic standards are critical, the populace and business community do not appreciate the potential disruption to essential services that will come with such a catastrophic event. How will the city and region function when power, gas, water and even transportation routes are compromised for weeks or perhaps months. For those who have spent millions on their waterfront or hillside view homes will potentially be homeless because they chose to live in places where the land may slide in a big seismic event.

    My point is that I see endless fussing about issues which are not insignificant but pale beside the bigger issues which geography and geology play. Ask yourself how important to the regions economy are things such as ports, manufacturing, and adequate transportation.


    Posted Thu, Jan 16, 8:05 a.m. Inappropriate

    My guess about what's really going on:

    The machine's location is sort of a point of no return, conveniently located where there are no buildings or major roads directly above. After this it will go under the existing viaduct and city and be immensely more difficult to rescue. They hit a pipe, and progressed slightly past it. Now the machine's 'warning light' is on, which could be residual effects of eating the steel.

    So, WSDOT wants to make absolutely sure that the machine is OK before going past the point of no return. STP - having the 'cover' of WSDOT's clumsy leaving of the pipe would probably be ok with digging forward with the warning light on. But WSDOT is after all the client, so they are reluctantly going along with this plan to send people down there to inspect.

    Probably nothing will be found. But they will have checked. The machine will proceed. Maybe it will all be fine from here forward, or maybe not.


    Posted Thu, Jan 16, 10 a.m. Inappropriate

    I think you have nailed it g_dub. One of the points you didn't mention is that at the present time, STP hasn't officially taken ownership of Bertha.

    There are a lot of people covering their backsides at the moment. WSDOT did that by providing the documentation that the pipe was there and STP is doing that by going the extra mile to make sure Bertha is in good condition before continuing on with the tunnel drive.


    Posted Fri, Jan 17, 8:15 p.m. Inappropriate

    Ummmm, where is the documentation that proves WSDOT provided documentation prior to the dig that the pipe was there?

    Everything I have read says they did not realize that they left the pipe there. They provided documentation that says they had wells there, but not that they failed to remove their pipes.

    Posted Mon, Jan 20, 7:59 a.m. Inappropriate

    That is in the original bid documents commonsense. No one argues this point. However STP says that they were under the impression that the pipe was removed.


    Posted Mon, Jan 20, 9:49 a.m. Inappropriate

    Yes, abcytesla, that is what my point was. WSDOT did not disclose that they left the pipes there, because they didn't even know. How could they "not know" when that project was barely a decade ago?

    Is there no working human memory in WSDOT offices? The rumor I hear is that a secretarial staff member told several WSDOT officials that she wondered if Bertha had fun into those pipes that were not removed.

    This all makes WSDOT top brass look incredibly stooped, and proves incompetence.

    Since when do we accept incompetence?

    Posted Mon, Jan 20, 10 a.m. Inappropriate

    Let's just hope the people being "sent down" will be kept totally safe.

    Posted Fri, Jan 17, 9:52 a.m. Inappropriate

    Do we have to pay the return freight on this machine or just fill in the hole behind it?

    Posted Fri, Jan 17, 10:54 a.m. Inappropriate

    Los Angeles expressed an interest in purchasing a tunnel boring machine of this size last year, no doubt for a highway tunnel application that isn't as malevolently reckless.
    Warshington State DOT is a criminal organization.


    Posted Mon, Jan 20, 9:51 a.m. Inappropriate

    We can just leave it in the ground, bury it and then in another decade, WSDOT will have some future project, spend lots of money researching everything, award construction contracts, not disclose Bertha didn't get dug up and removed, and let someone new run into it.
    Just like with the current pipes-left-and-forgotten fiasco.

    Build a new viaduct, and put a park on top of that if you want a new park so badly.

    Posted Fri, Jan 17, 1:51 p.m. Inappropriate

    I favored repairing the existing viaduct or, in the alternative, putting the incremental cost of any other more expensive solution on the account of the landowners who would benefit most from tearing it down. And actually, the state law does this in a way: the cost overruns are to be paid by LIDs imposed on the landowners who benefit -- not by the City's general fund. So let those who benefit the most pay the most; that seems fair. And then we can slow down on the scare-mongering about the City having an unfair financial burden from foreseeable but as yet unknown cost overruns.


    Posted Fri, Jan 17, 6:30 p.m. Inappropriate

    (Most of us) "favored repairing the existing viaduct or putting the incremental cost
    of another more expensive solution on landowners who benefit most. State law does this.
    Cost overruns are paid by LIDs imposed on landowners who benefit, NOT from the City general fund.
    Let those who Benefit Most, Pay Most = Fairest.
    Dither the Scare-mongering about
    "whoever" suffering unfairly with a "financial burden"
    from unknown cost overruns or whatever"

    Is that what you were trying to say, lowbro?
    Note the opening phrase "Most of us"
    a suggestion I only pose tongue in cheek.
    The viaduct was, always was, crap. CRAP.
    The BOX Cut/Cover/Seawall is
    'the other' state DOT PLAN B.
    who say they try, but dont hardly ever achieve overall
    transit planning objectives.

    K I L L
    B E R T H A
    U seattler ideeuhts!!

    PS: Waterfront soils below sea level at depths 75' to 110'
    (roughly between Jackson and King) must be repaired.
    Plan B 'upwardly' directs BERTHA
    to the BOX Cut/Cover/Seawall at 75' depth.

    Duherrr, Which way did they goe?


    Posted Fri, Jan 17, 8:13 p.m. Inappropriate

    What is the definition of "landowners who benefit"?

    Posted Fri, Jan 17, 9:24 p.m. Inappropriate

    Don’t forget that no other proposed configuration (especially this tunnel) for the AWV matches the existing viaduct in any transportation related category. The rights of ways already exist. The 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 can incorporate modern seismic protections and other enhancements for noise abatement, bikes, pedestrians and aesthetics. It acknowledges the fact that rubber-tired, multi-passenger vehicles are still the choice of over 90% of us. And it’s billions of dollars cheaper than this present mistake in the making.

    Should it be refurbished or replaced…YES. Is there anything proposed, including this tunnel, that can better serve regional commuters…NO there is not.



    Posted Sun, Jan 19, 8:03 p.m. Inappropriate

    "No other proposed configuration for the AWV matches the existing viaduct in any transportation category" yadda yadda repeated one too many times, getting old, forget it, whatever...

    The Box Cut-Cover/Seawall (in FEIS) "matches AWV" for essential replacement value. The Surface/transit options were a little more congested, but still possible. The DBT is a goddamn killer.

    Picture the bore embedded in soft mud moving in earthquake waves.
    If that picture doesn't wake enough Seattler clowns awake,
    we'll just feel sorry for your losses!
    Nimbwits! Bertha is NOT your friend!


    Posted Mon, Jan 20, 8:57 p.m. Inappropriate

    What's getting old is speculation about replacement values, capacities, access and congestion relating to a string of unproven designs when there's a working model available for public scrutiny on display right now down on the waterfront, where it's been successfully performing for regional commuters now for over 60 years.


    Login or register to add your voice to the conversation.

    Join Crosscut now!
    Subscribe to our Newsletter

    Follow Us »