Take note, Bertha, First Hill hospital tunnel project nearly complete

DSCN1442While drilling for the Alaska Way tunnel faces another massive set back, a lesser known — albeit much smaller — tunnel is nearing completion beneath First Hill. And workers didn’t need a janky boring machine to dig it either.

In order to connect a central sterilization area with future operating rooms, crews at Virginia Mason Medical Center have dug through roughly 90 feet of earth, oftentimes using only hand shovels, to construct the hospital’s new tunnel.

The staff-only tunnel will run in between Spring and Seneca to connect Virginia Mason’s Central Pavilion hospital with the newer Jones Pavilion at Spring and Boren, where the operating rooms are currently being built.

Work on the tunnel began in November and is expected to wrap-up this September. CHS took a tour of the tunnel last week, which is now safely supported by an outer metal layer.

Project manager Anthony Spinelli said Skanska construction workers dug the tunnel in 16-inch sections, which took 2-3 days each. Despite being only 20-ft above the tunneling project, operating rooms and the hospital’s hyperbaric facilities have stayed open.

“It presents some challenges,” Spinelli said.

Virginia Mason broke ground on the $154.5 million Jones Pavilion building in 2008. By 2011 crews had completed the 342,000-square-foot building’s outer shell. Three floors are currently operational while crews are using some unique methods to build out three more floors.

DSCN1459As tunneling continues under the hospital, work crews were finishing crane-lifting pre-made bathrooms into two of the pavilion’s upper floors. Irked First Hill drivers who have been battling the large cranes on Boren might be slightly less annoyed to learn that air-lifting the pre-made bathroom pods is actually reducing on-site construction time, according to a Virginia Mason spokesperson.

The 51 individual bathrooms, which are being installed in between active hospital floors, were constructed off site with “everything but the toilet paper.” They are now being delivered to  Jones Pavilion where crews lift them into the building and hook-up water and electricity.

The bathroom work is slated to wrap-up this week, after which workers will continue to build out the patient floors.

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4 thoughts on “Take note, Bertha, First Hill hospital tunnel project nearly complete

  1. As I recall, the planned Pill Hill station for the Capitol Hill light rail (recall, the stop with all the potential riders) was abandoned because of uncertainties in digging tunnels in pretty much that exact area…….