One year ago, Seattle stood by as the giant boring machine drilling the state’s new waterfront Highway 99 tunnel got stuck behind some sort of “mystery object” some 60 feet below the surface. At the time, we noted the “extraordinarily lucky” dig to complete twin tunnels beneath Capitol Hill for the U-Link light rail extension.
Now, after a year of waiting and digging to unstuck Bertha, word comes that the process to rescue the boring machine might be making an even bigger mess:
Settling of ground beneath the Alaskan Way Viaduct poses no danger to those driving on or walking underneath the 1950′s-vintage freeway, earthquakes aside, the state Department of Transportation assured Seattle City Council members on Monday.
What is unsettled, however, is when the giant, 7,000-ton digging machine called Bertha can be repaired, and tunneling resumed on the $2 billion project to replace the Viaduct. Bertha stopped a year ago.
“March is not looking like when we restart,” DOT’s Tim Moore told council members, referring to a restart date that was still in the state agency’s web site a week ago.
Not looking like a restart is one not so great thing, in a mealy mouthed kind of way. Settling buildings in Pioneer Square are another:
About 30 buildings in Seattle’s historic Pioneer Square neighborhood will be inspected both inside and out for damage after the soil deep below slumped an inch from Highway 99 tunnel work.
The $2 billion project was planned to create a 2-mille tunnel as part of a replacement for the more than 62-year-old Alaska Way Viaduct. The WSDOT project was planned to open in late 2016.