Update ericn in the comments links to the awesome video. This thing may go way, way underneath the bus tunnel.

There’s a lot going on with this viaduct replacement, here are links to some of the highlights.

  • The funding picture is becoming a bit more clear. The state is still on the hook for $2.8 billion, which means they will need to come up with another $400 million, but the Port of Seattle might chip in $300 million in Sodo, the City will need to raise $930 million for the seawall replacement, the park on the waterfront and the First Ave Streetcar, and King County will impose a car-tab tax of 1% to buy buses and pay for transit services. I’m not sure whether the county can do that without a vote, I’ll get back to you quickly on that one. The Port’s money depends on the bond market.
  • The space between the water and the first buildings east of the waterfront is very wide at some places, I bet the city could get that $930 mn by selling development rights or 99-year leases on the land.
  • The West Seattle Blog went to the press conference this morning, and has the details of how it went down.
  • I guess I’m not the only one who hates the tunnel: an anti-tunnel initiative has been filed with the city. I have to say, this might be a waste of time since it’s the state paying for the tunnel. If these guys earnestly want to kill this option, they should call up Tim Eyman and get a state-wide initiative filed. As much as I hate it, I wouldn’t that far.
  • The Big Dig comparison are probably not fair, since the thing isn’t a day late at this point.
  • This Times piece sheds a bit of light on the political workings the Nickels team had to go through to make the tunnel work.

Original image moved below the fold.

SR 99 Alaskan Way Viaduct
Alaskan Way Viaduct, from Washington State Dept of Transportation

98 Replies to “SR-99 News Round-Up”

  1. “since the thing isn’t a day late at this point.” Depending, of course, on when you start the clock.

    1. I am really against State taxes being used to dig a hole to replace the freeway in downtown Seattle. Beside the fact that it is crazy to put cars underground below sea level, in our rain drenched, earth quake prone area, this tunnel and it’s development should be paid for by those who will be using it if it is built at all.
      What is wrong with the Narrows Bridge toll solution? The Seattle based users should be responsible for payment of such a specifically local transportation option. Especially considering many of my neighbors who are and will be protesting the fake value of our property we are currently being taxed on. There will be a reduction in the tax base generated by property this coming year I am thinking. Big business like Boeing is already looking to leave Puget Sound and you can count on more losses from business before it gets better. Especially with the print more money attitude toward paying the bills we are seeing as the solution to our current national, state, county and municipal financial meltdown. It is not right for the majority residents to pay for a luxury benefit which we will never use. The days of building public projects like the Kingdom and blowing them up while still owing taxpayer money on them I hope is over.
      This Seattle road hole should be a user based project funded as a toll hole.
      The spending must be reined in on this kind of stuff. Stand up for being fiscally responsible before we all end up taxed out of existence. The responsible property owner (people like me and you who actually own property, not a worthless maxed out mortgage) can only take so much, especially when counties have stupidly let so many build in flood plains to make the quick fee based buck. What we have from short sighted building now is to deal with flood victims bail out, and the costs which go along with a disaster. Being more in tune with essential need carrying capacities and not building in bad areas like flood plains would have been a better idea in the first place.
      It will be better not to build the Seattle hole, especially when considering a major earthquake event, flood event, terrorist event or other calamity bringing further cost to an already overpriced taxpayer project. Let Seattle users pay for it if they just have to have it.

      1. This “screw seattle” argument is pointless, because Seattle drivers and gas users have been paying for your roads where ever you are too. The responsible spending part is well-taken though.

      2. Rick, I agree that tolls are a good idea for highway projects, but a tunnel that completely bypasses downtown Seattle is not for the residents of Seattle.

      3. There are a lot of Seattle residents who want to get from Ballard to Sodo, from West Seattle to UW, from Fremont to the Airport, and a number of other origin/destination pairs that do not include downtown. The citizens of Seattle are actually not really big fans of Downtown. Given the choice, many would rather have investment in their neighborhoods than in the urban core. The downtown lobby consists mostly of business interests and a few “urban enthusiasts”, most of whom spend a lot of time on this blog. ;-)

      4. Rick,
        This tunnel will be no more vulnerable to earthquakes and flooding than the other tunnels already in Seattle.

        As to terrorism, that strikes me as a really stupid reason not to build something. If this is a serious concern for you I’d suggest moving to rural Nevada. There are plenty of locations in the Seattle area that are already potential terrorist targets including the two lids/tunnels on I-90 and the convention center/freeway park area on I-5.

    2. Nothing has been said about Gregoire’s promised 2012 demolition date for the Viaduct, by my understanding that has just slipped three years.

      FWIW, don’t assume State support for this project, especially an increase in State committments from 2.4 to 2.8. If Seattle was to take its share of Nickel and TPA pain that share would more likely drop 400 million.

      As a matter of principle anyone who is asking for special deals above the interests of others, inside and outside of Seattle/King County is just offering to take the full hit themselves.

      That is, if everyone else stands up to them, even if they don’t agree on other issues.

  2. Keeping in mind that there is no perfect option that will make everyone happy, I like this plan. It makes it easier to through downtown and also makes it easier to get TO downtown. It contains many of the elements of the surface plan that I liked so I’m pleased there.

    1. I’ll second that, realistically speaking, theres no way to move the volume of vehicles, freight, AND transit that 99 does with a surface option. Comparing it to the Embarcadero isnt relevant as the Embarcadero didnt really go anywhere. 99 is a lifeline and a direct connection between downtown, the harbor terminals, King County Field, and Seatac.

      As some have menchioned, toll the sucker to get some more money; its likely it will be faster to get through downtown than 5 will be.

      1. Lifeline? How do you figure? I see it as a moderately faster way past downtown.

        The freight argument is strange to me. Freight hasn’t been allowed on the Viaduct for years.

      2. And freight is banned from the future tunnel. And it doesn’t allow access to the shipping areas of Interbay/Ballard.

      3. The freight argument really doesn’t hold water, as the current viaduct doesn’t carry freight.

        Eliminating a bypass through downtown would be the best thing that could happen to this city’s vitality for decades to come.

      4. “Eliminating a bypass through downtown would be the best thing that could happen to this city’s vitality for decades to come.”

        I’m not quite following the logic of this statement. There are a lot of trips for which people need to travel from somewhere north of downtown to somewhere south of downtown and vice versa (Ballard to Sodo, West Seattle to UW, Fremont to Sea-Tac). How does pushing these trips onto surface streets and I-5 help Downtown?

        As I see it, you end up with a “nobody goes there anymore because it’s too crowded” problem. The kind of trips that make downtown “vital”, like shopping and recreation trips tend to be lower priority trips. These trips will be the first to get pushed out if the streets get too congested.

        You also make a very strong statement: “best thing that could happen…” I’m really curious as to what thought process you went through to get there.

      5. As you see it, nobody would go to Manhattan! :)
        Crowdedness is vitality, economically, for cities. Shopping and recreation trips aren’t taking place as much when we have our commute loads anyway – and with Link opening up, we have yet another option for those commute loads to move to.

        I know this is weirdly paradoxical, but we *don’t want* so many trips to go from somewhere north to somewhere south of downtown. My first post on this addresses that – encouraging spiderweb development reduces mobility for everyone compared to hub and spoke. This is a perfect opportunity to discourage crosstown trips and encourage hub/spoke trips.

        Remember that people were terrified of what would happen with all those buses on 3rd, and closing it to traffic? What actually happened was people moved to transit, and car traffic avoided 3rd.

        Remember that people were terrified of what would happen to I-5 when it was reduced to one lane last year? We saw a 25% spike on Sounder – all these people who could have taken the train every day decided to try it because they feared congestion. As a result, congestion didn’t materialize.

        The same thing goes for the Viaduct, especially with Link coming online, and RapidRide. Anyway, if you recall, the surface/transit option showed about the same capacity as this… just for a lot less money.

    2. Creating a fast bypass of downtown is the problem – that is where sprawl comes from.

      1. No, sprawl comes first from zoning. Second it comes from building roads on the urban fringe. Road capacity through downtown, bypass or otherwise, increases the accessibility of downtown which makes it more attractive. More road capacity in the center city means more people can fit in the center city without getting pushed out by congestion. One of the major reasons for sprawl is people trying to GET AWAY from center city congestion.

      2. Here, here!

        I would tend to say I-405 has probably had more of an effect on sprawl than anything else. And 405 was built in order to avoid the traffic through Seattle and has now become one of the most congested freeways in WA. Now if there had been a better, quicker way to go through the city at the time you probably wouldn’t see nearly the development in the exurbs like North Bend.

        And to the zoning argument, employers like Microsoft being able to create a massive campus in Redmond also contributes greatly to sprawl. And in a way it’s because of what many people here want to see, people living close to work. If you work or depend on Microsoft for your living as many people around here do, it makes sense to live close to Redmond. I’m sure Boeing has had such an effect in the north and south, especially when it was THE employer in town.

      3. 405 was built to avoid the I-5 congestion. I-5 was built to avoid the 99 congestion. Each one we build congests worse than the last. Doesn’t it make sense that we’re actually building bigger mistakes every time?

        Here, have a look at this:
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Braess'_paradox

        Every single time we build a new bypass, or a new lane, we make congestion worse. Sure, not for the first few weeks or months, but once people’s commute patterns adjust – yep, worse.

        Every study we’ve actually done shows that widening highways makes traffic worse.

        Unfortunately, people don’t want to hear that the solution is to stop building. Nope, because bigger must be better.

        Zoning came as a result of pressure to use the new capacity added by the highway. Demand was induced by the addition of transportation infrastructure.

        Boeing was just south of downtown when it was THE employer in town. It only moved out to the edges when we built highways first. Microsoft wasn’t even where it is now, originally. It was close to Bellevue Way and 520, and only moved years after 520 was extended and widened.

      4. Center city capacity has been limited by surface streets from the beginning – I-5 did nothing to add to the actual capacity of the city, it just congested it. I’m serious. I know it sounds weird, there’s this very hard to shake ‘more is better!’ mental image we get from highways, but downtown Seattle would have just as many people in it every day with or without I-5.

        Sprawl didn’t happen because of congestion. It happened because highways made real estate cheaper by decreasing the marginal travel cost of trips farther from the core. People don’t care about congestion – if they did, people would be fleeing Manhattan in droves. Instead, they’re building ever higher there.

        Urban planning and transportation engineering are paradoxical, yes. You’ve got a set of assumptions there that are backward, though. The public discourse on transportation has sounded exactly like that comment for the last fifty years in this country, and as a *direct result*, our congestion and commute times have gotten worse.

    3. The problem isn’t the design, its the finances and the people behind it.

      There are very good reasons Chopp is opposed to this, not to mention a whole lot of other people NOT on the payroll of the proponents.

      Also, it does delay the solution. AND, with a surface option there is nothing stopping you from putting forth a proposal for a deep bore tunnel, waiting in line, just like everybody else.

  3. The county can raise the car tab by $20, but anything more would require a vote, I believe.

    I want congestion or variable tolls on this thing.

    1. Variable tolls seem like a good way to get the $400 billion missing in the state budget. Hopefully they get put on and never removed.

  4. The only thing I really don’t like are the costs that have been dumped back on the city. Bored tunnels aren’t that expensive, and we have a good idea based on the Beacon Hill tunnels (minus the crossovers and station related work) of what they will cost.

      1. Well, since you ask – Caltrans is boring 2 tunnels approximately 4,200 feet long and 30 feet wide south of SF on Hwy 1 for $200 million. Each tunnel includes bike lanes.

        I’m sure somebody here knows how much it cost to bore the Beacon Hill tunnels (minus crossovers and station related work).

      2. Wow, they’re finally tunneling past Devil’s Slide? I grew up near there, and they were planning a tunnel (and fighting a tunnel) since I was young. I personally think it’s a terrible idea (the last thing the world needs is more people that have to commute a minimum of 45 minutes to get anywhere), but I suppose at some point it gets tiring to have your town’s road slide into the ocean every few years (often taking a car or two with it).

      3. Holy crap that should be an interesting bike ride.

        *comment truncated – sucked into semi truck vortex*

      4. The Beacon Hill tunnels cost about $300 million. The contract was Civil 710, with Obayashi.

        This tunnel is 45′ – which is larger than both 30′ tunnels put together, in volume. As it’s a single tunnel, the machinery will be much more complex, a ringed borer rather than a single head, most likely. This tunnel is also a lot longer – I think about three times as long as the CA tunnel.

        We’re also putting a multi-decked structure in our tunnel.

        So I’d say double for the diameter difference, triple for the length, and maybe 1.5x again for the complex interior structure. I don’t think our costs are unreasonable. Tunnels are not all created equal!

      5. To the surface option, I’d assume. Really how much of the cost from mitigation gets factored into any of these estimates? You think about how much strain Sound Transit put on the MLK neighborhood and its businesses during construction (not saying it wasn’t worth it) and take that as an externality that doesn’t get factored in. A tunnel is out of sight and out of mind. Its construction happens day and night, rush hour or 4am while you sleep. It doesn’t block the entrances of businesses. It doesn’t create dust and noise except at the portals.

        And unlike all the other options, the existing viaduct can remain open the entire duration of construction (sans earthquake). The cost of having it closed for years isn’t something that is added to any other option.

        In other words, bored tunnels aren’t expensive when you factor in external costs like lost business, property values, etc. None of those things go into the $4.x billion for surface or cut & cover estimates. The bored tunnel, what you see–$4.2 billion–is probably about what it will cost all around.

        At least, I think :-)

  5. Of Course it goes way below, that’s why it’s a “*deep* bored-tunnel” and not just a “bored tunnel”.

  6. what about 9/11 security concerns of having vehicle tunnels under the heart of downtown? theres a security checkpoint checking vehicles entering the bus tunnel, are they going to have something like this for vehicles entering this 99 tunnel? what about fire safety and emergency exits and how will these connect into the surface level?

    1. See my reply to Rick above. Do we have checkpoints on I-90 before going under Mt. Baker or the Mercer Island lid?

      For that matter what about the BNSF tunnel? Though in that case I’d be much more concerned about a freight train accident.

    2. Say somebody wanted to put a bomb on a truck and blow up the city. That’s the concern, right?

      1.) You would need a very, very powerful explosive to cause any damage to the surface from 160 feet below it.

      2.) If you had a bomb that powerful, you could do much, much more damage by detonating it on third ave than you could by detonating it under ground.

      Granted, if a problem occurs IN the tunnel, it’s going to be very bad for anyone IN the tunnel, but the surface will be safer and that’s where most people are going to be.

  7. What’s this new tunneling technology, or breakthrough, that’s supposed to suddenly make tunneling cheaper, faster, easier (take your pick)? Does anyone have a clue what “they”, the Gov et al, are talking about? Any links to professional journal articles on the subject? Or is this all just happy talk?

    1. I think they are referring to the ability to line the tunnel with a rigid liner as you go, so that you can work in soft ground. See the Beacon Hill docs at Sound Transit –
      http://www.soundtransit.org/documents/pdf/projects/link/central/FACT_TBM-4.pdf

      “Lining the tunnel with concrete
      • Tunnel liner segments made out of pre-cast concrete
      are brought into the tunnel. The machine positions
      each segment into place using an “arm” or erector,
      creating a ring. Then cement grout is placed behind
      the ring, forming the tunnel’s permanent liner.
      • The segments are manufactured in Tacoma
      by Technopref Industries/Concrete Technology
      Corporation. 10 inches thick, the segments include
      rubber gaskets and are water-tight.
      • The TBM then uses the surface of the liner ring to
      propel itself forward, by pushing against it.”

      1. I think you’re exactly right. I suspect the tunnel liner segments will be thicker for this tunnel, though. Double, at least.

    2. This blog reported last month that the state of the economy could make construction cheaper as shown in the U-Link bidding results that came in 34% below ST’s estimate for the first major contract.

      Also we are going to have two major tunnel construction works going on at the same time: the U-Link tubes in 2010 and SR-99 tunnel in 2011. That will attract many major international contractors to Seattle to bid for the contracts.

      1. Off topic, but they should take that “savings” on the low bid and use it to buy another TBM to complete the U-link faster. I wonder, is the cost primary in labor or in the machine? Do they lease the TBM or do they outright buy it, use it, then scrap the parts when a project is done?

      2. I believe the current U-Link plans are to use 3 TBM machines for building U-link. I’m not sure if one of those TBM machines is the machine that was used for the Beacon Hill tunnel.

        Personally I’d like to see any additional TBMs used to complete the segment to Northgate faster.

  8. Huge flaw in this bored tunnel is absence of ramps at Western and Elliott. Some 42% of viaduct traffic exits or enters at downtown ramps (Western/Elliott, Seneca/Columbia) and only 58% follows this tunnel route to Aurora Ave. That 42% of viaduct traffic, including most of the Ballard and Interbay industrial traffic, will end up on waterfront surface streets, same as with the surface/transit alternative.

    Yes, some of this traffic may detour through Seattle neighborhoods to get onto Aurora, so they can use the tunnel, but the extra time they take to get to/from Aurora will offset the time savings of using the tunnel.

    If these tunnel advocates are serious about this proposal, they need to include ramps at Western and Elliott.

    1. Would it be possible for traffic from Ballard/Interbay to enter the tunnel at Mercer instead? The north portal will be between Denny and Mercer, so it should be possible to put an onramp there.

      1. I don’t see Mercer having enough capacity through Uptown/LQA to handle traffic between Ballard and 99, in addition to the Queen Anne to I-5 traffic. It would be a big mess anyway.

    2. They’d have to be serious about another billion dollars. Connecting to a bored tunnel ain’t cheap.

  9. I was rooting for surface-transit, but they made their decision, and I think it was the right one. Surface-transit was going to make it so that there would be a lot more traffic on city streets downtown, and obviously I don’t want another elevated behemoth along the water. Also, the people in West Seattle and Ballard were going to fight this to the bitter end.
    And, as this tunnel is going to be 120 feet below the surface, as I have said before, there will be absolutely no problem with putting a new light rail tunnel (or two, or three, for that matter) downtown. There’s plenty of space underground.
    Finally, we are getting quite a bit of transit out of this, it looks like, including the Central Line, and some county-wide improvements.

  10. I don’t know Seattle that well, but I’m curious how does rail freight get moved between the southside to the northside and how is that impacted by this proposal?

    1. A tunnel! Actually, a tunnel that was built by hand something like 100 years ago. There are some great photos out there somewhere.

      1. Oh, yeah, there’s a photo I saw recently of this in a book in the Seattle Room, at SPL Central Branch.

      2. Oh yeah, and the tunnel cost $1M in labor and $500k in labor. I wonder what that would scale to in 2010 dollars?

  11. On the bright side, in 75 to 100 years when we run out of oil, maybe we can run light rail through the tunnel? I would trade the viaduct for the green line in a heartbeat.

      1. But it’s too big for just a rail line.

        Alternate uses:
        Downtown bypass via bicycle.
        Let it flood a little and have an underground gondola “downtown bypass of love”.
        Nuclear waste storage?
        Underground Nascar (we’d need to build a U-shaped road at each end).
        Or I think it’s just big enough to store rail advocates’ broken dreams.

      2. Obviously you create an underground world for the poor to live in, toiling away to sustain the lives of the wealth above-grounders.

  12. The “surface-transit” option always had two problems- first, nobody had any way to pay for the transit, and second, it would have dumped the traffic from 99 on I-5 and into downtown.

    Gregoire could have said that the viaduct would be rebuilt, and this would have been supported by Seattle representatives in the legislature. Nickels said if that happened, the city agencies would refuse to issue permits. That would have put Nickels in the position of insisting that Seattle make a long battle to increase the congestion downtown and alienate everyone who uses the viaduct now.

    Two ‘incidentally’ points here- first, if you just stand and look at the viaduct you can see a lot of heavy truck traffic. This may not be freight, but it’s not just private cars. Second, you really ought to talk with your representatives once in a while. Most of them want exactly what you want, but you’re not the only people they represent.

    Now, the big pot of money in this state for transportation is the dedicated gas tax. The only way you’re going to get a tunnel carrying light rail under Seattle is to let them build it and then convert it to light rail when times change. This isn’t rocket science- there isn’t going to be a market for a second $10 billion LRT in Seattle for some time to come.

    And there is no streetcar network. It’s an oxymoron, and an imaginary one at that. Just look at what happens to one of these comment threads when somebody starts talking about where the ‘streetcar network’ should go. Or ask yourself when was the last time you saw a good blogpost about the electric trolleys and how they should be improved.

    Now- true story. About 35 years ago I was looking at a nice map that showed all the greenbelts of Seattle. The only problem was, the city didn’t own any of them and apartment builders were already cutting down the trees in the one behind my house. Since then, about every five years one of the dailies would run a story about how the greenbelts were disappearing, and everyone would say it was a shame.

    Moral of the story- the tunnel proposal does not mean you are losing all those transit improvements you hoped you would get. You never had them. And you don’t need to kill the tunnel to make sure that congestion increases in Seattle. That will happen anyway, up to the point where rising oil prices and fighting global warming kill the car. It will be quicker to build those transit improvements on their own merits. If you don’t think they have any, that in itself should tell you something.

    This is a great opportunity to get the tunnels built on the highway-builders dime. If the people of Seattle screw this up, they’re going to regret it for a long long time.

    1. Exactly when do you forsee the highway department handing over the tunnel to rail? Has this ever happened in the history of the United States? Sure, the future looks bleak for the car, but it would be a long, long time before the highway department decided they just don’t need their massive tunnel.

    2. The 1% MVET proffered to the county as part of the Bored Tunnel to pay for transit will generate in excess of $100 million a year. This would have been plenty to pay for the transit required for S+T.

    3. There is enough demand TODAY for Light Rail from Ballard to West Seattle. There is far more demand along this corridor than there are at the fringes of the current Link plan.

  13. Why does the future look bleak for cars ? I feel like everyone here is hung up on cars “running on oil”. Yes, the oil peak will come but no, people will not stop driving cars. It’s really not hard to predict that in 10-20 years the technologies (hopefully more enviro-friendly) to power the cars will greatly improve. To think that with oil peak comes the end of cars is just silly.

    Having said that I’m happy with the decision. This tunnel is needed for exactly what it does – bypass downtown. And it will be needed and used in the future, with people driving electric or algae powered cars.

  14. Did anyone notice on the video that it is only two lanes in both directions? We currently run 3 lanes now, correct? Even with that it can back up quite a bit. How is reducing the amount of lanes going to reduce traffic? I am still a fan of the bridge idea from West Seattle to battery tunnel. Just reroute the 99 to start from West Seattle using a really sleek cable bridge and while the construction is happening we can still use the viaduct. Cheaper, safer, and would add to our view. I also like the tunnel but it is to expensive and dangerous being so close to the sea wall plus being up to 160′ below sea level.

      1. I know this but the viaduct is 3 from that point south. I also believe that it turns to 3 again after the tunnel. Strange. Was the tunnel built at the same time as the viaduct? Was north of the battery st tunnel 2 lanes at one point and they just expanded it?

      2. Also widening or deepening the battery tunnel would probably still be cheaper and safer due to the fact that it is above water and the buildings in that area are not tall buildings and do not require such deep foundations.

    1. The overall plan includes a number of significant improvements to surface streets to handle the rest of the traffic. The tunnel is designed to carry “through” trips only. The current 6 lane viaduct carries both “to” and “through” trips. The idea is to put the “through” trips in a tunnel and make improvements to surface streets, transit and I-5 to handle the “to” trips.

      1. yes, but traffic is already piled up badly on i-5 and I believe we have a real chance here to alleviate traffic in that regard. I do understand the purpose of going to 2 lanes because it will not be a destination highway but it seems placing that traffic on I-5 would be worse. Have you driven on
        i-5 north from the south? Doing this would place traffic back near South Center.

      2. i think the idea behind a total of four lanes here is to just set it at a reasonable width and call it quits, instead of every decade trying to add more lanes to catch up to congestion. its a lost cause. every time you try to expand roads to relieve congestion, the new wider road becomes just as crowded as it was before, you keep doing this and by the time your at 16-20 lanes wide, youve poured a ton of money into the road, torn down half the city and traffic still sucks. is just like the photo of the congested 16 lane freeway in atlanta that someone posted on one of these tunnel threads.

        its kind of like getting a car wheel stuck in sand, you keep pushing down the pedal and yet you just get further stuck in the sand despite all the effort.

    2. If you look at the SDOT traffic flow volume map you’ll see a lot of traffic (33,500 vehicles) that exit and enter the viaduct right before the Battery St tunnel. 19,200 vehicles use the downtown exits. That traffic will have to go elsewhere because there will be no downtown or Elliott Ave exits.

      Also, the lanes of the tunnel will be at least 12′ wide with a shoulder. The viaduct lanes are narrow and there’s no shoulder which slows vehicles down.

    3. Fact check: When the Governor said awhile back that the choice was down to two options, 1) an elevated replacement, and 2) a surface plus transit alternative, her definition of “an elevated replacement” was 2 lanes in each direction on two separate elevated structures. I.e., the 3+ lane elevated alternative died a long time ago.

      So the tunnel at 2 lanes in each direction is the same as the current elevated alternative (which I don’t think would ever get built in any case). The lack of more lanes in downtown Seattle is compensated for by the surface improvements. It’s a fair compromise.

      Note: The Battery St tunnel continues to operate in a 2-lane configuration under the deep bore tunnel option. In effect, the number of lanes entering the city from the north would go from 2 lanes currently to 4, one or two of which would dump you off in SoDo and two of which would dump you off at Western on the north end. The current situation with the viaduct is a 1 lane exit at the north and a 1 lane exit at Sodo.

  15. Has anyone come across a map showing the route the Great Northern Tunnel takes under downtown?

    1. I’ve been looking for one and I can’t find one. The only thing even close was the youtube video. What street does it even go under? I always assumed it crossed the bus tunnel down on like King Street but that video has the rail crossing under the bus tunnel right before the McDonalds on 3rd.

      1. It doesn’t cross the bus tunnel. At King street the bus tunnel surfaces just to the east of the train tunnel (which also starts there), and stays east of the train tunnel throughout Seattle.

      2. I don’t believe this is accurate. I believe it crosses the bus tunnel twice; the second time under the University Street Station, as can clearly be seen on the video.

  16. thanks matt. I always assumed that initial “dip” between the international dist. station and pioneer square station was the tunnel going under the rail tunnel. When you think about it though, what you say makes sense but doesn’t that mean the rail tunnel starts off with a rather sharp bend (following perfontane pl?). The two tunnels must get awfully close initially. Does it go under any buildings?

    I’ve actually never been on a train going through the rail tunnel so I really have no clue where it routes under the city. I take it that the rail tunnel is pretty much right under second ave?

    1. The other end of the tunnel is out by the waterfront, and I’m not sure what route it takes to get there. I’m guessing it’s more or less a straight line, so it doesn’t follow any avenue in particular.

      1. You know, I think you might be wrong Matt,

        I’ve read several references (see the part about the transit tunnel mid-page) to the contractors doing some kind of jet-grouting of the rail tunnel to stabilize it while they went under it. I think I might be right about going under it between pioneer square station and the int. dist.

      2. From here, the tunnel turns south down Third Avenue towards the south portal. Shield excavators created the Third Avenue section of the tunnel. The tunnel section between Westlake Station and the next stop, University Street Station, passes over the Burlington Northern train tunnel, which is the main north-south rail facility in the region. The University Street Station directly connects to Benaroya Concert Hall as well as the financial district. Five blocks further south is the Pioneer Square Station and the historic district. The final tunnel section is a curve-shaped portion leading to the south portal. This is the only part of the tunnel that is below sea level, and it passes merely 4 feet below the Burlington Northern Railroad tunnel. Since construction, this juncture has been stabilized with a chemical grout. The southern portal opens up to the open air International District Station. A concrete lidded area is just south of the station platform for bus staging.
        Some report, page 4

      3. Great find. But I find it very strange that it crosses both at the south end and between Westlake and University, but the train somehow ends up at the waterfront. What a strange path the train must take! (take a look at p. 6 of your last link and try to imagine the route)

      4. Further, wikipedia claims the BNSF line goes under benaroya hall, which would mean it at least does something on third.

        There has to be a map somewhere. I have never, ever seen one. That said, I never tried the library, just online.

        If I was a gambling man, looking at a map and thinking about how sharply the bends could be, my money is starting from the king street station the BNSF goes up to like 4th, then kind of makes a gradual arc, goes under benayora and follows a straight line to the exit. Something like this.

      5. The DSTT crosses the BNSF railroad tunnel twice under downtown Seattle. First it crosses under the railroad tunnel at the south end of the DSTT somewhere in the vicinity of the Pioneer Square Station. Then it crosses over the railroad tunnel near University Ave somewhere.

        The deep bore tunnel for Hwy 99 would cross the railroad tunnel only once – it would go under it somewhere in the vicinity of University/Union (I think) and 1st Ave. It would also pass well under it so tunneling should be easier.

        The deep bore tunnel also shouldn’t interfere with placing an underground LR line on 2nd Ave. However, the tunnel animation shows an 8 foot sewer line on what must be 2nd Ave – this could be a problem, but is totally unrelated to the viaduct replacement program.

      6. Yeah, I don’t know what kind of problem the sewer might pose to a future transit tunnel. If it blocks off 2nd, with the BNSF on 4th through much of downtown, then I guess 1st and 5th are your only options.

      7. [crk] Your map just shows up as points to me. But I think the youtube video must be wrong, since it doesn’t show the rail tunnel crossing the bus tunnel between University and Westlake.

      8. is the BNSF line based on GIS data? If so, where did you find it? I merely guessed (abit correctly!) where it was at.

  17. Y’know, we have a political agreement here in which the viaduct will be removed, 99 will pass under the city without dumping traffic downtown, the city will build a First Avenue streetcar, the county will raise taxes to pay for transit improvements, and the Port will lobby for the Waterfront Streetcar to be restored and extended to the Cruise ship terminals at Pier 91 (this last being, not explicit, but implicit in the Port’s position). And we still have people here who think this is a bad idea.

    This is a not uncommon failure both of historical perspective and vision for the future. Not too long ago a Seattle mayor ramrodded through a high-level bridge to West Seattle against bitter opposition- it wasn’t necessary, it cost too much, etc etc. And today the same people who would have fought that bridge fiercely can’t imagine a future in which it is used for anything other than cars and trucks.

    Personally, I’ve never been convinced that there is a huge amount of West Seattle-Ballard traffic. This is partly because it is too convenient a claim by those who wanted to keep the freeway on the waterfront, and partly because nobody has ever shown me the figures.

    But let’s assume there is, and that the numbers get bigger, and that the costs of driving increase exponentially, as they probably will when we get serious about stopping AGW. Could there be a better route for a LINK-type transit route than over the West Seattle Bridge and through the new tunnels? Or would you build an entirely new ROW so the remaining handful of extremely wealthy drivers could race at top speeds over almost deserted freeways?

    Well, predictions are always hard, especially about the future. But I’m guessing that some of you will live to look back and wonder what all the shouting was about. I know I have.

    1. Well, I messed that up. But anyway, it is an interesting study. Maybe some advocacy to include transit lanes will be worth it.

      1. The breakdown lanes and widened shoulders have enough space to provide a rail line. Or, you could take away a traffic lane and provide two rail lines.

        Just don’t plan to do it in the future and add rails now. Been there, done that.

Comments are closed.