Dignitaries federal and local were on hand with an assortment of community representatives and Sound Transit employees to launch the start of a year and a half journey for two tunnel boring machines drilling 21-foot diameter tunnels two miles from Montlake to the intersection of Broadway and John on Capitol Hill. Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff and Senator Patty Murray did the honors of lofting the ceremonial bottle as it was strapped into a harness for its 100-foot ride and crash above the enormous tunnel boring machine waiting below. A burst of streamers and applause followed. “Where did it hit?” somebody asked. The tunneling will be a much more precise venture. At the end of the two-mile trip, City Council member Richard Conlin reminded, the twin tunnels will break through within one inch of their marks. For more on the journey, see our recent post on the start of boring. Monday’s Seattle Times also featured a write-up on the U-Link tunnels including this nicely cleaned-up version of Sound Transit’s route map (PDF).
In her remarks before busting the bottle, Murray said U-Link was a reminder of the importance in pushing forward during the weak economy. “Even in the worst of times you can never stop investing in the future,” she said. Employment was a theme for many of the remarks. Conlin noted that the U-Link project has already generated about 2,000 jobs and said that around 19,000 will have been created by the end of the project.
In his introduction of Rogoff, Conlin also reminded of the importance of federal boosts to make the Sound Transit project a reality including an $800 million transportation grant that is helping pay for the nearly $2 billion project. Rogoff spoke of the Obama administration’s determination to reduce the nation’s “dependence on oil” and make it possible for people to shift to fewer gas tank fill-ups. Rogoff also praised Sound Transit for being ahead of schedule and under budget thus far on the project but warned that boring is the “riskiest” part of the project.