Seattle SR-99 Tunnel: construction difficulties

The Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement tunnel, also known as the SR 99 Tunnel, is a bored highway tunnel in the city of Seattle.. The 2-mile (3.2 km), double-decker tunnel carries a section of State Route 99 under Downtown Seattle.

Construction began in July 2013 using "Bertha", at the time the world's largest-diameter tunnel boring machine. After several delays, tunnel boring was completed in April 2017, and the tunnel opened to traffic on February 4, 2019.

bertha_1.jpg

I find it ironic that in the 21st century it took us 5 years to complete, and 7 years to launch a 2 mile (3.2 km) tunnel. This construction time is comparable to that of:
  • Box (2.95 km, 1838-1841) - straight, and descends on a 1 in 100 gradient from its eastern end.
box-tunnel.jpg
  • Mersey (1.2 km, 1881-1886) - Oldest and first longest underwater rail tunnels in the world, Crossing the Mersey in Liverpool
  • Severn (7.01 km, 1873-1886) - One of the oldest underwater tunnels in the world
The below two facts (pertaining to two major construction halts) could be even more ironic:
  1. Three days prior to stopping (in 2013), the machine mined through an 8-inch-steel well-casing used to help measure groundwater in 2002 around Alaskan Way, drilled as part of the planning phases of the project. Whether this pipe had anything to do with the machine's failure is at the center of legal dispute between WSDOT and the contractor, Seattle Tunnel Partners. This delay lasted for more than two years as the workers had to dig a 120-foot (37 m) vertical shaft down to Bertha's cutting head to repair it. Settling was discovered in Pioneer Square that may be related to this additional excavation.
  2. Tunnel boring had resumed on December 22, 2015. The tunnel boring was halted 23 days later on January 14, 2016, after a 30-foot-wide (9.1 m) sinkhole developed on the ground in front of the machine, causing Governor Jay Inslee to halt drilling until the contractors can perform a root cause analysis to show that the machine can be run safely. Even though contractors filled the hole with 250 cubic yards (190 m3) of material, the ground above the tunnel-boring machine continued to sink, according to the Washington State Department of Transportation.
We all can speculate on what those sinkholes could mean in a city like Seattle.

Seattle_Underground.jpg

Additionally that 8 inch steel pipe mysteriously disappeared:


KD: Curious if this Seattle Tunnel saga had anything to do with possible buried buildings they had to drill through.

Funny that Brunel's 1843 tunnel looked so much cooler when completed. Sure enough it allegedly took him 18 years to build it, but he started in 1825, and built it under the Thames River.

1843_brunel Tunnel.jpg

Thames-Tunnel-1.jpeg
 

Sonofabor

Member
Joined
Jan 11, 2021
Messages
102
Reaction score
174
Please present your evidence.
My evidence stems from growing up in the working class (no surplus meaning attached). The whole scene seems very familiar to me.

The men, dressed in khakis, look post-WW1 at the very earliest; their helmets look made of steel; maybe war surplus. (Workers weren't too fond of such gear until it became normalized in the 70s with Nixon; there was near universal disgust with O.S.H.A. safety laws). I suspect, however, that this was taken in the 40s or 30s (under Roosevelt and his work projects), because the gentlemen viewing are wearing hats that went out of fashion by the mid-50s.

The surfacing of the concrete seems standard, even by today's standards.

My sense is that the "retaining-wall" with windows was what was left after a demolition in the very early 70s.

I also wonder, in fact I now doubt, that those workers were working on that particular "retaining wall." For the wall remained or became, after demolition of some sort, an open sore-- as it were-- in the the early 70s. And those workers are probably from the 40s.
 
Last edited:
  • A Avatar
    Info

  • jd755

    Active member
    Joined
    Jan 8, 2021
    Messages
    162
    Reaction score
    364
    The men, dressed in khakis, look post-WW1 at the very earliest; their helmets look made of steel; maybe war surplus.
    What men dressed in khaki?
    My sense is that the "retaining-wall" with windows was what was left after a demolition in the very early 70s.
    Apologies for my obvious lack of clarity. The true retaining wall that holds Front St/First Avenue up is only visible in this photograph and this one.
    I also wonder, in fact I now doubt, that those workers were working on that particular "retaining wall." For the wall remained or became, after demolition of some sort, an open sore-- as it were-- in the the early 70s. And those workers are probably from the 40s.
    Which wall photo are you referring too?
     

    Sonofabor

    Member
    Joined
    Jan 11, 2021
    Messages
    102
    Reaction score
    174
    To be honest, I get a little confused by the discussion of buildings angles and view points. So let me bow out of this side of the discussion.

    The fellow with the steel helmet was wearing work-khakis.

    I also should note that public works in USA really began in the 30s. They had the technology and a surplus population that suddenly came under economic duress (1929). Farming families were shaken out and their children left to work camp/towns so they could eat. There is no "heroic" records of workers building buildings like the Sears building (above)-- except those famous obvious fakes of workers sitting atop skyscrapers on iron beams hanging a hundred stories over NYC, for instance. In the 1930s real building of dams occurred; in the 50s, they tackled inter-state highways. Skyscrapers started popping up regularly in the PNW in the 60s.

    Putting up retaining walls, while utilizing old buildings, strikes me as a 1930s' project. By 1970, there were still holes-- that is, the old world could be seen like an open sore.
     
    Last edited:
    Joined
    Oct 29, 2020
    Messages
    1,103
    Reaction score
    3,282
    I did visit the area again. Unfortunately, it’s not gonna help out in this case. Pertinent things changed too much.

    On a separate note, I did master through about 30% of the underground tour. (I fared much better a few years back, lol.)

    That I will do a separate article on, at some point. I might even force myself to get through the entire thing before I do that. It was funny and sad at the same time. Hard to blame the guides, but ultimately, they are the ones contributing to the spread of the BS narrative.
     

    jd755

    Active member
    Joined
    Jan 8, 2021
    Messages
    162
    Reaction score
    364
    Coming in from a different angle.
    I wondered when and why Front Street was relabelled 1st Avenue in the hopes it would reveal something about something.
    Here is what I uncovered via the search engines. I must say its obvious there is much more available in the offline world than the on but one can only play the cards one is dealt.

    Turns out the street became an avenue in, tada... 1895.
    City of Seattle Ordinance 4044, “An ordinance changing the names of certain streets and avenues in the City of Seattle,” which passed on December 23, 1895 and rewrote the landscape of the city.
    Certain streets rather underplays the scope what was done as 618 streets had their names changed

    From the Ordinance 4044 page.
    Section 12 That the name of Front Street from Yesler Avenue to Depot Street, be and the same are hereby changed to First Avenue.
    Even the tide lands get a mention.
    Section 299. That the names of Chelan Avenue in Seattle Tide Lands Plat and Marmion Street in Lake Side addition, be and the same are hereby changed to Handford Street.

    Section 300. That the name of Yesler Street in Seattle Tide Land Plat and South Seattle, be and the same are hereby changed to Charlestown Street.

    Section 301. That the name of Market Street in Seattle Tide Lands Plat and South Seattle, be and the same are hereby changed to Bradford Street.

    Section 302. That the name of Elliott Street in Seattle Tide Lands Plat and South Seattle, be and the same are hereby changed to Amdomes Street.
    Why such a wholesale renaming is not mentioned in the ordinance so going back to the article linked at the top of this thread and clicking though to this image of a newspaper dated 1889 we discover Seattle's 'great and good' were looking to copy New York's street naming methodology.

    Screenshot_2021-07-15_17-46-42.jpg

    Which is not really much of a surprise as both cities are gridded cities and given politicians desire to be associated with and wherever possible better 'the best' it makes sense.

    H.H. Deaborn is the chap whom proposed the naming as you can see in these screen grabs.

    dearborn.jpg

    dearborn2.jpg

    Cannot figure out who H. H Dearborn was but apparently his house is extant and tours go there.
    Historic Seattle is pleased to offer a guided tour of historic First Hill with the participation of the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation, the Frye Art Museum, St. James Cathedral, and the Sorrento Hotel. This neighborhood was the location of private clubs, important religious institutions, and swank hotels. It was also the city’s premier residential enclave from the 1890s through the first decades of the 1900s— home to mayors, judges, industrialists, timber barons, and art collectors. The tour includes The Frye Art Museum, St. James Cathedral, H.H. Dearborn House, Stimson-Green Mansion, Piedmont Hotel (now Tuscany Apartments), First Baptist Church, Fire Station #25, and the Sorrento Hotel, providing insights into a century of architecture and interior design, as well as a lively look at the life and times of First Hill at the turn of the 20th century. Guided tours conclude in the Fireside Lounge of the Sorrento Hotel where participants enjoy happy hour prices on appetizers and drinks.
    As there is a Dearborn lumber it may be fair to suggest H.H Dearborn made his fortune from chopping down trees and turning them into lumber and then land speculating.
    My feeling is he was instrumental in the burning in so much as he had a lot to gain from such a venture hence his involvement in the street renaming affair. What better way to hide his involvement?

    The linkage to the fire in regards what we see in the op photograph and what it hides is of no great surprise.

    This lists all the after fire structures in 1890. Hotel Seneca is not in the list. So either it was constructed post 1890 or was first constructed by under another name. If the latter is the case it means the retaining wall of Front Street/First avenue predates the hotel which would be my guess given the fact the hotel exterior is the boardwalk width off of the retaining wall. It makes no sense to me to put the retaining wall in after the hotel was constructed.

    I did a search on the page for 1st Avenue and got this

    Screenshot_2021-07-15_18-15-43.jpg

    Further evidence it seems the Hotel Seneca did not exist in 1890.

    Here's the search for Front St

    Screenshot_2021-07-15_18-19-33.jpg

    Here is the Diller Hotel entry

    diller.jpg

    It was the only hotel that was either up or going up on Front Street/1st Avenue post fire to 1890.
    This could conceivably be the Hotel Seneca. Four stories and a basement is unlikely to be a house.

    senecaunmamed.jpg


    Probably much more at the linked site. Will revisit it when the mood takes me.

    Automerged it seems.
    I found this whilst searching for the bloody 'goose & twig' plaster cast.

    Here is the source of the back wall photo, it was apparently taken in 1984.

     
    Last edited:

    Similar articles

    Top