Workers near Seattle’s waterfront this week began building the underground lair for the giant tunnel machine that will chew a new path under the city.
Like a subterranean beast, the tunnel machine will creep along at 3 inches a minute, digesting the compacted silt and gravel that underlie Seattle.
The start of drilling the pit that will house the tunnel machine marks a major milestone in the epic effort to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct with a tunnel — a project that still generates doubts over whether it will collect enough tolls and move enough traffic through an hourglass-shaped city.
The viaduct replacement dig will follow the closely watched tunnel projects serving Sound Transit and the Brightwater sewage treatment plant. Those projects have encountered obstacles that included a 2007 worker death during the drilling of Sound Transit’s Beacon Hill tunnel and the 2009 breakdown of a Brightwater tunneling machine.
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