Highway 99 | KUOW News and Information

Highway 99

On the eve of a two-week closure of the Alaskan Way Viaduct, former Washington Governor Chris Gregoire said she’s confident the tunneling project under Seattle’s waterfront will ultimately succeed.

The viaduct is closing to allow the tunnel-boring machine known as Bertha to dig underneath the double-decker structure. Under the original timeline the tunnel was supposed to be open by now and the viaduct long ago torn down.

Chris Dixon of Seattle Tunnel Partners speaks about Bertha's status on Dec. 23, 2015.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

Bertha the drill is ready to start work again. But first it’ll take a little rest over the holidays.

Four workers were injured in an accident at the north end of the 99 tunnel project near Seattle Center on Thursday afternoon.

Three of those workers walked out on their own; firefighters had to walk in half a mile to free a fourth worker who had been trapped 25 feet down from where he fell. 

According to Seattle Fire spokesman Kyle Moore, the men were working on a wall project when it broke beneath them, sending them hurtling 25 feet to the ground below. The men were 23, 29, 31 and 36.

Flickr Photo/WSDOT (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Bertha needs a face lift.

Washington State Department of Transportation officials told the Seattle City Council Monday afternoon that the face of the state Route 99 tunnel machine has to come off in order to repair its damaged machinery.

WSDOT Photo

An 8-inch-wide steel pipe.

That’s what is likely blocking Bertha, the boring machine creating a tunnel through downtown Seattle to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct.

Progress at last on the tunnel being built to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct.
Flickr Photo/Washington State Department of Transportation CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The most plausible theory about what stopped Bertha, the tunneling machine digging its way through downtown until last Saturday, is also the most boring.

Flickr Photo/WSDOT

A new tolling proposal would ask drivers to pay as little as $1.00 for taking the Highway 99 tunnel under downtown Seattle. During morning and evening commutes, rates would jump to $1.25. A state advisory committee is hoping the proposal will strike a balance between tolling revenues and potential traffic diversion.

Two years ago, when the tunnel plan was approved by voters, the proposed tolling rates were as high as $3.00 during peak hours. Under that plan, traffic planners were concerned that high tolling rates would divert too many cars onto downtown streets. Maud Daudon is co-chair of the Advisory Committee on Tolling and Traffic Management. She's also president and CEO of the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce. She talked with Ross Reynolds.