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March 29, 2013 at 11:22 AM

Highway 99 tunnel drill to arrive Tuesday in Seattle

pit pour

This is the concrete floor upon which the tunnel boring machine sits as it begins its drilling journey. (Photo by Mark Harrison / The Seattle Times)

The jumbo ship Fairpartner is approaching the West Coast and should deliver the world’s biggest tunnel boring machine at Seattle’s Terminal 46 on April 2.

When the ship left Osaka, Japan, on March 19, officials thought it might arrive here March 29, but the voyage was slowed by headwinds, said KaDeena Yerkan, spokeswoman for the state Department of Transportation, whose website for tunnel machine “Bertha” is linked here.

Friday morning, the Fairpartner is cruising just south of the Aleutian Islands, says the tracking site sailwx.info.

The machine is in 41 parts, including the 57.5-foot wide rotary cutting head that is strapped to the rear deck.

Unloading will take nine days — but not consecutively, because the ship will likely yield space at T-46 if the Port of Seattle needs to unload two container ships there at the same time. The Fairpartner would anchor temporarily in Elliott Bay.

The launch pit in Sodo, where the machine will begin drilling this summer, is nearly finished, Yerkan said, except for finishing the concrete floor it will sit on.

The DOT has posted a map of suggested viewing sites around the bay.  There will be a 24-hour webcam set up from the Wells Fargo office tower downtown, as well as public tours by reservation.

Starting April 4, the DOT will take people on walking tours that go upstairs onto the stub of the old Alaskan Way Viaduct, affording a crow’s-nest view of the pit, new cranes, and an overhead conveyor system, described in this recent Seattle Times story.  For signup information, check the Milepost 31 project museum online, or visit at 211 First Avenue South.

Drilling begins this summer on the $2 billion, four-lane tube to South Lake Union, to open as a tollway in early 2016.

Comments | More in Traffic & Transit | Topics: -/*****, Highway 99 tunnel


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