Program Spotlight

Latest updates on the Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement Program

  • SR 99 tunnel’s north portal taking shape near the Space Needle

    A few blocks northeast of the Space Needle, crews are building the north portal of the SR 99 tunnel. It’s a huge piece of the overall tunnel project, but it’s largely invisible to the thousands of people that pass by it every day.

    About the only place you can see the north portal taking shape is from the viewing deck of the Space Needle because most of the construction is underground, inside a pit that’s every bit as impressive as the launch pit where Bertha, the SR 99 … more

  • Lots to see inside the tunnel launch pit

    You can’t see much from the surface, but there’s a lot of work happening in the launch pit where tunneling started last summer. Last week, Seattle Tunnel Partners removed the giant steel frame that Bertha, the SR 99 tunneling machine, pushed against to start her drive into the tunnel. The frame is now on its way to be recycled.

    Work is also well underway to dismantle the temporary concrete tunnel rings Bertha installed to give her additional leverage at the start of her … more

  • Keeping the Alaskan Way Viaduct safe until the tunnel opens

    We're looking forward to opening the tunnel to traffic and demolishing the Alaskan Way Viaduct. It’s the reason we come to work each day. But until we take down the viaduct, it’s our job to protect it and keep it safely open to drivers.

    And so this weekend, as they do four times every year, WSDOT crews will inspect the viaduct. They’ll start by closing the structure to traffic on Saturday and Sunday. Then they’ll begin a methodical weekend of work measuring … more

  • A tool that’s more important than Bertha

    Bertha, the SR 99 tunneling machine, is easily the most recognizable tool being used on the SR 99 Tunnel Project. But she’s not the most important tool.

    That distinction belongs to our 1,373-page contract with Seattle Tunnel Partners (STP), the joint venture we hired to design and build the tunnel. The contract can’t bore a tunnel or build the highway within it, but it can perform the project’s most vital function: protecting taxpayers.

    On most highway projects, … more

  • Tunnel crews keeping busy

    While we’re working with our contractor, Seattle Tunnel Partners (STP), to get Bertha moving again, we’re also doing a significant amount of work elsewhere on the project. In fact, the vast majority of the 300 people who work on the tunnel each day aren’t anywhere near Bertha.

    Here are some of the things they’ve been up to:

    Building the tunnel’s south portal

    It’s hard to tell when you’re driving by on SR 99, but a good portion of the tunnel& … more

  • Building a better transportation system

    The Washington State Department of Transportation is working to build a safer, more durable, effective transportation system for our citizens. All across the state – from Bellingham to Vancouver, Forks to Spokane – we manage hundreds of important transportation projects each year to upgrade or replace aging roads and bridges, increase capacity for carrying people and freight, and create more environmentally sustainable travel options for the public.

    You’ve been hearing … more

  • The mood around the office

    He was smiling, but you could tell he was tired. Like many of our tunneling experts, he’d been working long hours lately. Still, tired or not, he was genuinely amused when he dropped into our office to share some news.

    “Did you see the Seattle Times?” he said. “People are voting on what they think stopped Bertha. (Seattle Seahawks cornerback) Richard Sherman is winning.”

    He paused.

    “I’m glad people are having some fun with this,” he … more

  • The beauty of barging

    On Nov. 23, crews started barging soil from the tunnel dig site to a disposal facility near Port Ludlow. Adding barges to the fleet of trucks hauling away soil has greatly improved the speed and efficiency of the tunneling operation.

    The reason for that is simple: Bertha is moving a lot of soil – soil that has to be taken away to make room for more soil. If crews removing it can't keep up with Bertha, the bin where the soil is stored gets full and the machine has to slow down. … more

  • Why bridges (and overpasses) are like butterflies

    Over the weekend, crews closed State Route 99 through downtown Seattle for an important reason: the South Atlantic Street overpass needed space to emerge from its cocoon. Don’t worry, it wasn’t flying anywhere. And it isn’t nearly as colorful as a butterfly. Still, you’ll notice a huge difference the next time you take SR 99 through SODO.

    For nearly a year, hundreds of steel and timber beams, and acres of plywood and foam spanned the highway in roughly the same … more

  • Tunneling in Seattle started long before Bertha

    Seattleites were digging tunnels long before Bertha, the SR 99 tunneling machine, came along. Folks started transforming subterranean Seattle in 1894, with construction of a sewer tunnel not far from the SR 99 tunnel’s north portal construction site. Since then the city has seen – or not seen, as the case may be – construction of more than 40 miles worth of tunnels.

    Last month marked the 109th anniversary of the historic breakthrough on the Great Northern Tunnel, which … more