Topic: Highway 99 tunnel
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November 14, 2013 at 11:00 AM
The Highway 99 tunneling machine “Bertha” is on the move again, after a rest stop to undergo adjustments and receive a new set of cutting teeth.
Dark, wet soil tumbled off the tall conveyor belt and plopped onto the deck of Terminal 46, to be trucked or barged away. The moving dirt was visible Thursday morning from the Alaskan Way Viaduct.
Bertha had stopped beneath South King Street for about two weeks, after advancing 430 feet since opening day July 30. As planned, two dozen sharp, disc-shaped cutting tools (out of nearly 300 on the 57.3-foot-diameter rotary cutter) eroded after they scoured through a concrete wall and grout-infused soil near the Sodo launch pit.
These were replaced by rectangular teeth, suited to the wet, abrasive glacial soil just ahead.
The machine will now creep along the Elliott Bay shoreline for a couple months before what is arguably the most risky part of the 1.7-mile trip — a passage under the viaduct and past Pioneer Square’s brick buildings. The viaduct will close several days, and the buildings are covered with monitoring devices to detect any soil movements to a fraction of an inch.
In related issues, the state Department of Transportation (DOT) says negotiations are continuing in the labor dispute with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, which insists on doing four muck-loading jobs per shift at Terminal 46 — jobs currently allocated to building-trades workers. Two weeks ago, deputy project director Matt Preedy said his goal was to settle the impasse by this week.
Also, the DOT says it’s still working on a legal review and possible solutions, for the failure of contractors to hire enough minority- and female-owned small businesses, such as trucking firms. The Federal Highway Administration’s civil-rights division blasted both Seattle Tunnel Partners and state DOT in a recent investigation, and the feds mentioned they might withhold money for the project if things don’t improve.
KaDeena Yerkan, DOT spokeswoman for the tunnel, said Wednesday that Seattle Tunnel Partners this week solicited a new set of proposals from trucking companies. Those could bring a boost in minority hiring, but Yerkan said details weren’t immediately available.
November 2, 2013 at 9:24 AM
Weather: Rainy, windy, in the 50s. Here’s the National Weather Service forecast.
State officials and tunnel contractors fall short on minority hiring: The Federal Highway administration says the state Department of Transportation and the main contractor for the Highway 99 tunnel failed to make a good-faith effort to sign up businesses owned by minorities and women. Reporter Mike Lindblom explains the report and talks to state Transportation Secretary Lynn Peterson about what she plans to do next.
Tech and the mayor’s race: Columnist Brier Dudley declares it “silly season” when the Seattle mayor’s race, in the closing few days of the campaign, veers into tech territory about who’s the broadband-friendliest. “Silliest of all,” Dudley writes, “is that this sideshow is casting Mayor Mike McGinn as the pro-broadband mayor, because Comcast has donated to his opponent, state Sen. Ed Murray.” Read the column.
Spokane says goodbye to Speaker Foley: Former U.S. House Speaker Tom Foley was remembered Friday as a statesman and a friend to people great and small, as about 800 people gathered for a memorial service for the Spokane native on the campus of his alma mater, Gonzaga University. “He easily figured out how to make Washington, D.C., work,” said U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, who was among the speakers. “America needs more Tom Foleys.”
Record spending in Bellevue City Council races: Vandana Slatter, Kevin Wallace and Conrad Lee are spending record amounts in their council campaigns, and two independent campaign groups have jumped in, too. Reporter Keith Ervin follows the money.
Sounders open at home against Portland: The Sounders have been outscored, 7-0, in the first legs of their five previous playoff series. They’ll look to erase bad memories and rev up the offense in tonight’s opener of the Western Conference semifinals against rival Portland. Reporter Joshua Mayers explains what the Sounders have in their favor as they go up against the No. 1 seed. The match starts at 7 p.m. at CenturyLink Field. To watch from the comfort of your couch, look for the game on NBCSN.
Fall-back weekend: Rain or no rain, wind or no wind, this is the sweetest weekend of the year. Fall back! Get an extra hour’s sleep! Daylight-saving time ends at 2 a.m. Sunday. Tonight, remember to turn your clocks back one hour. And it’s a good time to check batteries in smoke alarms and carbon-monoxide detectors.
Most-read stories on seattletimes.com:
October 31, 2013 at 3:24 PM
The giant Highway 99 tunnel drill has paused this week for maintenance and repairs below King Street, after grinding about 430 feet north of the launch pit in Sodo since July 30.
This stop was anticipated in the schedule filed with the state by Seattle Tunnel Partners, under a $1.4 billion contract to build a four-lane tube to South Lake Union by December 2015. The machine will likely restart the week of Nov. 11, said Matt Preedy, deputy Highway 99 administrator for the state Department of Transportation.
About 40 of the 250-plus cutting tools will be replaced at the front of the machine. Though it’s early in the 1.7-mile project, the machine known as Bertha has already churned through two concrete stability walls, fiberglass and grout-infused soil, so some tool erosion is normal, Preedy said. Adjustments are being made to high-pressure water systems and to the conveyor machines that remove soil, says an official update. Wheels are being replaced toward the rear of the drill, after bearing the weight of more than 5,000 arc-shaped concrete segments that form the tunnel tube.
October 15, 2013 at 6:08 PM
The Highway 99 tunnel project is reaching a milestone, or maybe a 1/20th milestone.
An empty barge could be seen Tuesday morning, moored alongside Terminal 46 for the first time. That makes tunnel watchers wonder whether boring machine Bertha has already advanced far enough to reach clean soil, which can be ferried from Seattle to the Mats Mats quarry near Port Ludlow.
The barge is just hanging around for a couple days, so that an overhead loading spout — nicknamed the elephant trunk – and the barge positions can be calibrated, says spokeswoman KaDeena Yerkan of the state Department of Transportation.
So far, Bertha has traveled about 250 feet, after an 18-foot push on Monday. That’s close to what engineers expect for the early, difficult waterfront phase of the tunnel from Sodo to South Lake Union. But for now, the machine is still churning through shallow fill dirt that’s been reinforced with concrete grout. Trucks are taking this unclean soil to processing sites, until the drilling operation reaches better soil. It’s going to take another 250 feet, and at least a couple weeks, to reach clean soil, Yerkan said.
By early 2014, Bertha should pass under the Alaskan Way Viaduct and achieve speeds of 35 feet a day through downtown, taking most of the year to complete the 1.7-mile dig.
“Things are continuing to progress well,” Yerkan said Tuesday afternoon.
The recent advance follows a four-week delay caused by a clogged conveyor screw and a labor dispute, shortly after the drilling began July 30. Union dockworkers have ceased picketing T-46, but there’s still no long-term agreement to resolve the demand from the International Longshore and Warehouse Workers Local 19 that they should perform the four muck-loading jobs that are currently being done by building-trades workers.
September 18, 2013 at 5:18 PM
Despite a halt to the longshore union’s picketing Tuesday, tunnel-boring machine Bertha needs a few days before it can restart.
One might expect drilling to begin immediately, given that Seattle Tunnel Partners (STP) had four weeks of delay to prepare. But it’s not that simple, contractor and state officials say:
- Workers need a couple days to finish adjustments that were under way on large mixing arms that stir the excavated muck, right after it passes through Bertha’s rotary cutting face, said Chris Dixon, project manager for STP. This work was going to happen later anyway, when Bertha stops in a so-called refuge area between Sodo and the Alaskan Way Viaduct this fall. Dixon is now hoping to skip the refuge and keep drilling northward.
- Conveyor parts need to be fixed, where muck will be sometimes lifted from a temporary stockpile on Terminal 46, and moved to barges, said KaDeena Yerkan, spokeswoman for the state Department of Transportation (DOT). The work couldn’t be done earlier without crossing an International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) picket line, so it’s happening this week, she said.
- Workers have to be rescheduled from other jobs onsite, said Yerkan.
Complicating matters, STP began the week hunkering down for another two or three weeks delay, and sent some workers to build an alternate muck-handling bin that would let trucks remove soil via Alaskan Way South, bypassing the docks. The green light to drill caught managers by surprise, Dixon said Tuesday. “The whole landscape changed,” he said. “We’re very happy with the news. It’s very positive. It’s uplifting the spirits of the people on the project.”
Rumors and tips abound regarding the supposed real reason Bertha is idle — anything from electrical flaws, to an inability to chew through concrete grout in the soil. All of these, the project officials vehemently deny. But if Bertha does have mechanical flaws, those will be manifested, before too long.
When restart is imminent, Yerkan said, the DOT will announce it online, through e-mail, or through Bertha’s Twitter feed.
August 20, 2013 at 3:39 PM
The longshoremen’s union began what may be the first of many days of picketing outside the Highway 99 tunneling site near Port of Seattle’s Terminal 46 today.
The group of about 30 International Longshore and Warehouse Union members who showed up at 6 a.m. says they’ll keep coming back to picket all day until the Seattle Tunnel Partners contracting team negotiates with them again over four tunnel-work positions they want back. Picketers with signs reading ” STP lied to the ILWU” say a contract with the tunneling project managers initially seemed to dedicate those jobs to its union workers.
“We’ve been negotiating with them since 2011 and now we’ve got this contract,” said Chuck Cepeda, a labor relations spokesman for the union. “We’ll stop when they finally honor the contract.”
Back in April, the union and the tunneling project managers signed a contract saying that longshoremen would be employed to help load dirt excavated from the tunnel onto barges. But in July, an arbitrator ruled that the jobs are covered by the tunnel’s broader project labor agreement.
That means the work has gone to building-trade workers instead, a move tunnel project managers say will save them millions during boring machine Bertha’s 14-month dig beneath downtown Seattle.
The union picketing zone, marked with its own stop signs, prompted a few trucks to use another entrance to the terminal, but members aren’t doing anything else to obstruct tunnel work and don’t plan to, Cepada said. He also said that right now, there’s no talk of suing the tunneling project management team either.
“We plan to stay here until they come back to the table to negotiate,” Cepada said.
July 20, 2013 at 3:26 PM
Hundreds of people signed liability waivers and walked through a dirt yard in Sodo, to take a close look Saturday at tunnel machine “Bertha” before it disappears under Seattle for 14 months.
Even as Gov. Jay Inslee and other officials speechified next to the launch pit, crews at the world’s widest drill already were bolting together the first of several temporary concrete rings, where 56 hydraulic thrusters will give the machine an initial push north, breaking through the pit into soft soil. As Bertha proceeds, permanent concrete rings will form the four-lane tunnel.
Many well-wishers signed ring pieces, while others waited in line to stroll a catwalk that spans the pit.
A bottle of Washington state white wine, a bottle of Spanish sparkling wine, and a bottle of sake, were broken against the steel machine, built by Hitachi-Zosen in Osaka, Japan and operated by Spain-based Dragados.
“I’ve gotta say I am a big fan of a big jobs program for the state of Washington, which is big Bertha…” said Inslee. “When I look down into this pit, I don’t just see a big machine, I see determination, I see innovation, I see teamwork, I see a symbol of a community that worked together to move us forward.” He mentioned that 135 of 171 contracts for the Highway 99 program, and the bulk of skilled construction jobs, went to Washington firms and workers.
On the downside, government leaders have yet to figure out a tolling program that will keep motorists from diverting onto and clogging downtown streets. They also haven’t determined how to keep more than 24,000 bus riders moving — passengers who now reach downtown via the Alaskan Way Viaduct’s midtown exit.
Spokeswoman KaDeena Yerkan said more than 5,000 people showed up. Attendance was boosted by Sounders FC fans who dropped by before the team’s 1 p.m. match.
The $2 billion tunnel, to open in late 2015, is the biggest part of a $3.1 billion replacement for the old viaduct.
July 6, 2013 at 12:34 PM
Seattle Tunnel Partners has been fined $2,000 because a concrete slurry spilled into city storm drains in Sodo last November.
The state Department of Ecology issued the penalty notice, dated June 27, and contractors have 30 days to pay it or to appeal. From the notice:
Ecology spokesman Larry Altose said the drains flow directly into Elliott Bay. In this case, the contractors released “Controlled Density Fill” because they wanted to seal off drains that were no longer needed — but some of the slurry went beyond the target. None of it reached the bay, according to KaDeena Yerkan, a tunnel spokeswoman for the state Department of Transportation. The four-page Ecology notice is linked here.
Construction teams typically inject CDF into soft soil, to prevent voids or slides that can damage nearby buildings. Another common use is to create a hard slab within wet or fill soils — so that a tunnel drill has a stable surface to grind through, as the cutting head moves forward under precise control.
May 31, 2013 at 1:49 PM
Highway 99 tunnel workers, politicians and supporters gathered this morning to venerate the world-record cutting head while a huge crane lowered it into the south portal at Sodo.
The green, 57 1/2-foot disk had been resting on its side near the sports stadiums, a Sodo landmark in its own right, since a shipload of tunnel machine parts arrived from Japan in early April.
The $2 billion tunnel is part of a $3.1 billion replacement for the old Alaskan Way Viaduct, which sank a few inches after being damaged by the 2001 Nisqually earthquake. House Transportation Committee Chairwoman Judy Clibborn, D-Mercer Island, gave a cheerful tint to the project’s long gestation, which devoured tens of millions of dollars for preliminary engineering and public outreach.
“If you take two or three years to make a decision, or maybe five or six, the technology advances to a point where you could do this with a single bore,” she said, at similar cost to another viaduct.
This photo shows the disk from its backside. The red device in the foreground is the segment erector, which will use vacuum suction to lift about 14,400 arc-shaped concrete pieces, which will form the tunnel tube to South Lake Union. The circular opening in the center is where a conveyor screw will push excavated dirt toward the rear of the 326-foot long machine.
The cutter head alone is 838 tons — of which 9 tons of steel will be scraped off by abrasive soil over the course of a 14-month dig, said state Transportation Secretary Lynn Peterson.
April 5, 2013 at 11:57 AM
The ship carrying Bertha, the $80 million boring machine for the Highway 99 tunnel, will remain anchored in Elliott Bay, unable to dock as planned at Terminal 46.
A news release from the state Department of Transportation Friday morning doesn’t explain why, except that ”arrangements are still being made to unload the ship.” The parties have had three years to prepare, since the Seattle Tunnel Partners team led by Dragados USA and Tutor-Perini won the $1.4 billion contract for the two-mile tunnel from Sodo to South Lake Union.
The state DOT initially hoped to dock the M/V Fairpartner on Wednesday, then estimated Friday.
Linea Laird, program administrator for state DOT, said in an interview Friday she is hoping to resolve the problem within a few days. ”The contractor is working on these arrangements, with labor. It does take some time to sort through the issues,” Laird said.
Unloading is expected to require nine workdays, but the vessel must yield to Port of Seattle container ships, so the task will be spread over two weeks or more. It is a delicate operation that includes lowering pieces of nearly 900 tons onto flatbed trucks with up to 768 tires, just to travel a quarter mile or so from the waterfront to a pit where the Japanese-built machine will be reassembled this spring. The job requires a coalition of tunnel-machine engineers, skilled truck operators, and longshoremen to work as a team.
Below is the short news release, issued this morning:
Statement by Linea Laird, Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement Program administrator:
The ship carrying the State Route 99 tunnel boring machine, the Jumbo Fairpartner, was scheduled to berth at Terminal 46 this morning to begin unloading. Arrangements are still being made to unload the ship.
The machine will not be unloaded today and will remain on board the ship, anchored in Elliott Bay, until arrangements are in place.
Seattle Tunnel Partners is under contract with WSDOT to complete the SR 99 tunnel by December 2015. This includes building, transporting, operating and maintaining the tunnel boring machine.
Additional information and comments, including the schedule for unloading the ship, will be provided once arrangements are made.
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