Skip to comments.SR 99 tunnel slated for fall opening: What to know about tolling, viaduct closure & more
Posted on 04/21/2018 8:37:01 AM PDT by Tolerance Sucks Rocks
SEATTLE -- Bertha finished boring the path for a new tunnel under Seattle nearly one year ago.
Since then, construction crews have finished installing a double-deck highway end-to-end inside the tunnel. That leaves crews to finish installing and testing the $3.2 billion tunnel's advanced operational and safety systems.
So when will the tunnel open? How much will tolls cost? And what happens to the Alaskan Way Viaduct?
When will the tunnel open and what happens to the viaduct?
After the tunnel is finished, crews will close the Alaskan Way Viaduct for several weeks to realign the highway to the tunnel. The viaduct will be permanently closed, and it will take a few weeks before the tunnel will open to traffic.
Demolition of the viaduct will begin some time after the tunnel opens to traffic.
That paves the way for the Seattle Department of Transportation to build a new Alaskan Way along the downtown waterfront.
How much will tolls cost?
"Funding for the $3.2 billion viaduct replacement program comes from state, federal and local sources as well as the Port of Seattle and tolls on drivers using the tunnel. Of that total cost, the 2012 Legislature stated $200 million must come from toll funding," WSDOT says.
The Washington State Transportation Commission is responsible for setting toll rates: "The WSTC will consider multiple factors in order to determine the best rate to minimize traffic diversion onto other roads but still generate necessary revenue for the tunnel. They will use the results from the investment-grade study as a baseline for their work."
A study came up with two main possibilities: tolls ranging from $1 to $2.50 at peak times -- which would raise the $200 million as required by state law -- and a second option kept trips closer to $1 to $1.25 at peak times.
A final decision has not yet been made.
One of 'smartest' tunnels ever built
The safety systems will make the SR 99 tunnel one of the smartest tunnels ever built, including:
What about the delays?
The project is about two years behind schedule after Bertha's main bearing was damaged in December of 2013 -- only about 10 percent of the tunnel had been bored.
Seattle Tunnel Partners and Bertha's manufacturer Hitachi Zosen came up with a plan to lift four million pounds of machinery up through a hole in the ground to repair the cutter head.
Two years later, STP resumed tunneling and completed boring the tunnel. WSDOT says the cause of the damage is under dispute and in litigation.
Why build a tunnel?
Transportation officials explain the decision to replace the viaduct with a tunnel:
State Route 99 is critically important to local and regional transportation as it is one of only two major north-south highways through Seattle. The portion of SR 99 that travels through downtown Seattle is an elevated double-deck road called the Alaskan Way Viaduct. It was built in the 1950s and is vulnerable to earthquakes, which is why replacing the viaduct is critical to public safety.
After the 2001 Nisqually earthquake damaged the viaduct, the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) reinforced the road, imposed roadway restrictions for large vehicles and began frequent monitoring and quarterly inspections to make sure the road remains safe for everyday use.
In 2009, after an extensive public process, the Washington State Legislature voted to replace the viaduct with a bored tunnel. This construction method allowed SR 99 to remain open through Seattle during construction. In 2011, crews demolished the southern mile of the viaduct nearly half the structure and replaced it with a new road. After the new SR 99 tunnel opens, the Alaskan Way Viaduct will be demolished to clear the way for Seattles Department of Transportation to build a new Alaskan Way on Seattles waterfront.
WSDOT hired Seattle Tunnel Partners as the design-build contractor of the SR 99 tunnel. Tunneling started in July 2013 with the worlds largest tunneling machine - a 57.5-foot-diameter machine named Bertha, after Seattles first female mayor Bertha Knight Landes.
I understand why an elevated highway can be damaged during an earthquake and I’ve often wondered about how the elevated highways in Los Angeles will fare in a major earthquake. I would also not want to be driving through a tunnel during a major earthquake.
A tunnel in Seattle, a city that sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire?
Things that make you go Hmmm.
I hope those are pretty good safety systems.
Think Timothy McVey only with a beard and a towelhead.
I’ll take a pat on the back.
After the 2001 Nisqually Earthquake which damaged buildings and shook downtown Seattle including swaying Key Tower, I went to a public meeting of the Seattle City Council and graphically, emphatically said the Viaduct needs to come down and a tunnel put in place else we would have a situation as Oakland’s raised interstate in their 1987 earthquake.
I said it would also connect Downtown with the waterfront and provide residents with a park area.
17 years later, here we are.
Now there’s the idea of putting a ‘LID’ over the I-5 underpass that cuts through downtown. It will muffle the freeway noise and again open a park for residents.
As liberal as Seattle is, I can’t leave because many people here hide their politics and come out to make life more enjoyable and better. It truly is a beautiful city, just wish we could be rid of the radical left fringe.
Boeing HQ should come back from Chicago and provide major influence, but that’s wishful thinking.
I would not support a GOP Mayor candidate because it’s a lost cause for now but I would support an Independent candidate because I think they would have a chance to win. Libertarian candidate, I fdon’t think so.
As a native Californian I understand, I would prefer the elevated highways versus subterranean in that situation. As to elevated highways here in So Cal, even single level ones have issues
I know some will say “but California has earthquakes” I could not live there, but I have lived elsewhere with tornadoes and all of the other natural occurrences both here in the US and elsewhere.
When your time comes there is really nothing you can do, but tempting fate in the particular discussion point about being underground when it happens...
I take that elevated roadway to work everyday. It is an eyesore on the waterfront of downtown Seattle but is a major roadway and is used heavily.
This state and the city are continuing this push to make people take the bus and the stupid light rail they are building.
They are taking away road capacity and it is making things way worse.
Yep, Al-Timothy could do some damage but to bring the whole thing down I think you need an Act of God such as a Mega-Quake.
I will be in Seattle the end of May so I may see it for myself.
I do think we will use the light rail as we won’t be renting a car.
How is it?
We need to tear down the convention center and add roadway capacity through downtown but instead doing that they are expanding the convention center (it sits atop interstate 5 for those non locals).
We have only 1 general purpose lane dedicated to southbound vehicle traffic through downtown Seattle.
All other lanes are either exit lanes or a carpool lane.
Imagine L.A. or Boston or N.Y.C. having only 1 highway that goes North/South through it and one direction has traffic choked down to 1 lane for cars that are not stopping in the city. WTF Chuck!
It is so bad now that on sat. and sun mornings at 9 a.m. you will be in slowdowns 3 miles from downtown.
It is so bad, and they know they are making it worse, which is why they are buildinf a tunnel to replace the bridge...a tunnel with LESS capacity and they are tolling it...but are trying to keep the tolls low enough so everyone doesn’t just take surface streets.
Sent you a provate message
Is there a bicycle path?? You know this is Seattle ...
Bicycles and bike paths are big here.
The new tunnel will be used by tens of thousands who presently use the viaduct for their commute. Tolls on the new tunnel will cause drivers to avoid tolls and create congestion elsewhere. There should be a lifetime pass one price one purchase for regular commuters to pay that thing off as fast as possible. Tolls cause problems.
He said the whole point of "selling" the airspace above I-5 was to effectively cap capacity there.
No, my beautiful birth city is no longer beautiful, it has been transformed into a rancid pot of drug junkies committing a sundry of property crimes to support their habit, 400+ homeless camps throughout the city, overfilled with garbage spewing out into neighborhoods.
The 'progressives' on the city council ignoring/abetting the homeless scourge, corruption unabated at city hall to reward the homeless-industrial complex leaders who do nothing to alleviate the problem but to encourage it's growth with more taxes.
The residents of Seattle are fed-up with this blight happening in Seattle and are organizing and speaking out.
If you're a FB user, go to this site and see what citizens are saying and doing about it.
A conservative or 'moderate' will never get elected to the Seattle city council until the Mike O'Briens and Kshama Sawants are kicked to the curb. I certainly hope Seattle citizens wake-up.
Of course.... The engineers who designed that never thought people would drive past Seattle why else would you be driving towards Seattle unless you were going to it, incredibly stupid
The biggest problem is the States and cities are relying on the federal government for highway funds and the federal government is putting requirements on them to get the money.....the requirements include HOV lanes, bike lanes, and tolling.
Another problem we have in Washington is our ferry system is very good but the ferries are considered as an extension of the state highway system.
I think it was a 1968 States Supreme Court ruling. The ferries get a very disproportionate amount of the gas tax funds.
Everybody not taking the fairies but buying gasoline is subsidizing people who live on the islands.
It’s ironic I’m saying this as I’m literally sitting in the ferry line to go to Kingston to visit my sister at her vacation house hahaha
Musk would have used his Boring Machine for free!
Simply pay him for a few extras and add-ons and his basic cost of operations and...
Here is a link to the on going thread (started in 2014) from AA Roads on this project. Some here may find the comments and links interesting:
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