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March 19, 2012 at 4:38 PM

Tunnel machine forging ahead at the rumble on Capitol Hill

A Sound Transit tunneling machine has made more than one-quarter of its pass beneath the 88-year old Capitol Building, where the rotary cutting head causes a low rumble at the ground floor.

The 21-foot diameter drill, about 45 feet under the apartment building’s basement, is advancing at 5 feet per hour. It’s expected to break through at the future Capitol Hill Station site between 4 p.m. and 11:59 p.m. Tuesday, according to transit spokesman Bruce Gray.  Work is going well, and underground gauges have shown no significant soil slides or gaps, he said.

Building owner Franklin Tseng said Monday afternoon that so far, the tunnel boring operation “has been better than expected.”  He has worried that soil shifts might crack the masonry building, as described in this Seattle Times story. Whether actual damage occurs may not be known for weeks.

Tunneling noise inside the Capitol is louder whenever the tunneling blades hit rocks, and recedes when it grinds through sandy soil.  On Tuesday, it will plod through a concrete-grout wall, before reaching daylight at the north side of the station.

Three tenants took up Sound Transit’s offer to stay at a hotel, said Gray.  A fourth, Leandra Berina, said she’ll take the offer Monday night, to ensure enough rest for her 6 a.m. work start, and two jobs. “I’m a little bit nervous because this is my home, and this building’s been here a long time,” she said.

Meanwhile, workers and machines cleared a small amount of concrete muck that was spilled at Olive Way at Boylston Street. The spill happened in early afternoon when a dump truck driver stopped suddenly for a pedestrian, Gray said. For a while afterward, car wheels spun on the steep hill as if driving through wet snow, said Mark Wogsland, who was walking in the neighborhood.

Comments | More in General news, Traffic & Transit | Topics: capitol building, light rail, tunnel

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