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Seattle grapples with tunnel troubles. Will it be built? [The Oregonian, Portland, Ore. :: ]
[May 01, 2014]

Seattle grapples with tunnel troubles. Will it be built? [The Oregonian, Portland, Ore. :: ]

(Oregonian (Portland, OR) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) May 01--In Oregon, thankfully, our public works debacles are mostly on paper, or on computer servers in Salem. In Seattle, it may literally be a hole in the ground.

Washington Department of Transportation director Lynn Peterson, former chair of the Clackamas County Commission, went on radio this week to acknowledge that the problems associated with the stalled tunnel-boring machine may not be fixable. That means the city's long-dreamed-of project to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct with a highway tunnel may not be realized.

"I would say it's a small possibility, but we want to make sure that everyone understands that it's a possibility." Meanwhile crews continue to work to reach the damaged head of the boring machine, currently stalled 60 feet underground. WSDOT says its construction partners expect to resume digging by the end of next March. The project's budget is $3.14 billion, but costs are assumed to be higher.

Boring a highway underground is a bigger undertaking even than Seattle's Denny Regrade early in the 20th century. And historic photos show what a massive effort that was. (Seattle Daily Journal of Commerce retrospective here.) Portland's biggest infrastructure project was the $1.4 billion Big Pipe, completed in 2011. It wasn't as sexy as a big bridge or highway tunnel, but it improved the health of the Willamette River and Columbia Slough by reducing overflows.

The Columbia River Crossing would have been bigger, but that stalled before the steam shovels arrived.

-Mike Francis ___ (c)2014 The Oregonian (Portland, Ore.) Visit The Oregonian (Portland, Ore.) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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