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Hill light rail construction gears up as future plans cut back — Ready for a giant crane?

News that Sound Transit may have bitten off more than it can chew when it comes to light rail expansion and faltering tax revenues won’t slow down the work underway on Capitol Hill to build the Broadway station and two twin train tunnels running below our feet between downtown and the University of Washington by 2016. In fact, Capitol Hill construction on the $1.9 billion project is picking up — way up. Soon, a 6-story crane will be installed at the work site. The behemoth will be in place through the final days of the tunnel boring as its mission will be to lift and lower the gigantic equipment necessary to complete the project. More on the crane and other glimpses inside the Broadway construction walls, below.

First, more on the financial situation for Sound Transit. From our network partners at the Seattle Transit Blog:

A 25% percent drop in expected tax revenue will force Sound Transit to re-develop some of its 15 year plan that voters approved in 2008, agency CEO Joni Earl told the board today. She said that procedures that voters also approved meant the agency must identify contingency plans if revenue is 5% or more less than expected.

“All elements of ST2 program no longer affordable within the original 15-year timeframe,” read a slideshow given to the board. The detailed budget proposal is available online.


Sound Transit has said it does not expect the budget issues to affect projects already underway. Capitol Hill’s light rail expansion benefits, then, from timing — and a giant pot of about $800 million in federal funding dedicated to the project.

Inside the walls this week, the pit being dug for the Broadway station is nearly 42 feet deep — about 40% of the way to its planned depth. Workers and machinery wrestle with a seeming never ending supply of Capitol Hill dirt that is dumped onto a conveyor system and lifted to waiting trucks. Managers of the project say the dirt at the site is very fine and from the looks of it, even at 40 feet down, the soil appears very similar to what you’d find in any Capitol Hill garden. Nothing interesting has come up in the digging — yet — beyond old tree wood and peat but there are expectations that some signs of old Seattle like building wood will be found when crews dig through to connect the Capitol Hill tunnel to downtown’s transit tunnel sometime in 2012.

The work crews who deal with the dirt are, of course, filthy. Most workers we saw were covered from head to toe in a layer of the stuff and managers say it will only get worse as the rain sets in for real. Removing water from the site is also a constant effort. Sound Transit paid for reconstruction of a major sewer line through the site and that same pathway is used to move water away from the construction and into the city’s storm drain system. Still, soon, the workers in the station box will be dealing with an amazing mud pit. Not a huge surprise that most don’t hang around after work to hit any Capitol Hill bars. CHS asked a few site managers if they knew if workers on the light rail project had found a favorite after work watering hole. Each said no — but maybe the workers just aren’t telling.

New truck routes, big crane
Soon, some big changes are coming to the Broadway work site. First, the truck route will soon shift to make for a more efficient path for the trucks as the construction area changes. Trucks will soon begin to enter the work site at the Denny entrance after traveling to the site up Denny Way and, once filled with dirt, they will exit onto John and leave the Hill via East Olive Way.

But a much larger change is also afoot — and it’s one we had better get used to. Over the next few months, gigantic pieces will begin arriving at the site for an enormous crane that will soon be erected near the Denny entrance above the station pit. The Krøll 1800 (Capitol Hill’s is the metric model) is nearly 200-feet tall, has an 197-foot jib (that’s the big arm), and can lift 26,460 pounds. It can operate in up to 45 mile-per-hour winds and can stand up to 94 mph if not operating. UPDATE: See note below on an article we found documenting the new crane on an industry Web site.

The jib arm will be pretty incredible to behold. At almost 200 feet long, it will reach the perimeter — and beyond — of almost the entire work site. The crane is also electric and should be quieter and cleaner than standard behemoth cranes.  A site manager said he expects the crane to be raised before the end of the year. If it doesn’t have holiday lights on it, we’re not getting our money’s worth.

You can tune into light rail station and tunnel construction yourself on the CHS Construction Cam page

UPDATE: CHS has been pointed to a recent news item on International Cranes and Specialized Transport documenting the purchase of Capitol Hill’s crane from the industry’s perspective. Their stats for some of the crane’s elements differ from the information we found on the manufacturer’s Web site. We’d put our money on ICST’s coverage when it comes to who’s right on this one.

Big Krøll tower crane to USA

Written by Alex Dahm – 04 Sep 2010

A New Krøll K1800 tower crane has been commissioned by Jay Dee Contractors, Inc. of Livonia, Michigan in the USA to help construct a US$ 158 million transit station and tunnel project in Seattle, Washington.

This unusual application for such a large tower crane was calculated to be the ideal solution for this project, explained Terry McGettigan of Tower Crane Support, who located and consulted on the K1800.

Rigged with a hook height of 104 feet (32 m) and 250 feet (76 m) of jib, the Krøll K1800 has a capacity of 133,277 pounds (60 tonnes) out to a radius of 83 feet (25 m) and, at 246 feet (75 m), it can lift 33,070 pounds (15 tonnes).

Erection is scheduled for December 2010.

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10 years ago

I was the bellman for the Beacon Hill tunnel, that’s the dude at the bottom of the tunnel who talks to the crane to hoist stuff in and out. We had a big ass Kobelco which had a hoisting limit of about 100 tons, and we routinely moved another big ass excavator, which weighed about 96 tons, in and out. God sometimes it was scary, it would nearly get caught on the way up on the tiebacks, but we never dropped anything – thank god. I can’t wait for this tunnel to be finished.