Boring details

State lawmakers have put a lot of faith in deep-bore technology and the latest advances that, we’re told, will make the Viaduct tunnel possible. But apparently, not too much faith.  That’s why as a condition of providing a couple billion dollars of funding in the recently passed transportation budget, legislators threw in a provision that requires Seattle taxpayers to pull out their checkbooks for any cost overruns.

But you know… what are the chances of that?  Transportation mega-projects always come in on time and on budget, and those giant tunnel boring machines?  They’re as infallible as the Pope.

On Beacon Hill, Christine Miller-Panganiban said she was doing a little gardening in her front yard a couple of Sundays ago, when she noticed a mysterious hole. She stuck her shovel  down. It didn’t feel the bottom.

Her husband got a piece of tubing seven feet long. Still they couldn’t feel the bottom. Only when she looked down it with a flashlight did she find that it went down 21 feet. “Oh my God,” she thought, and more when she realized that suddenly there was a deep void that now only went down and down, but extended under her house.

The hole was apparently created when Sound Transit was boring the tunnel for the new light rail line. On Monday, Sound Transit spokesman Bruce Gray acknowledged the agency has found seven underground voids caused by its boring machine within a couple of blocks east of the future Beacon Hill station, though the one in Miller-Panganiban’s front yard was the only one visible from the surface. Aside from causing concern in the neighborhood, he said testing for them and filling them would cost the agency up to $1 million.Oops. Apparently, the boring machine hit a layer of sand, which flowed into the tunnel leaving a gap in its place.

What kind of gap? “An empty gap,” Sound Transit’s Bruce Gray explains to us laymen.

But let’s not worry about all those boring details. The scientifically minded folks at the Discovery Institute assure us that recent technological advances make it possible to dig the world’s largest diameter deep bore tunnel, straight under downtown Seattle, cheaper, faster and more reliably than ever before possible. So unforeseen and costly technical hurdles — like, you know… sand — couldn’t possibly happen here.

Oh wait… it just did.

Comments

  1. 1

    ivan spews:

    A retrofit keeps the traffic rolling and saves a whole lot of the taxpayers’ money. I’d add one feature to it, though — a one-way exit ramp out of town for “surface option” supporters.

  2. 2

    Rail Guy spews:

    Yes, we all know that one of these sand holes would never open up under a downtown Seattle highrise, right?

    Right…WSDOT??

  3. 3

    Mr. Cynical spews:

    Goldy–
    I think we can agree this is gonna be one of the biggest clusterf*cks of all-time.
    The cost overruns will be too large to hide from the taxpaying public….and stuff like this are commonplace in liquefaction zones.

    The “good news” is the Cascadian Fault line which cuts lose regularly every 300-500 years last let ‘er rip on 1/25/1700…309 years ago.
    It’s due…and will sadly solve a lot of our manmade “problems”.

  4. 4

    Mr. Cynical spews:

    ivan–
    I’m with you on this one.
    The retrofit has always been the most cost-effective, least intrusive to current residents & businesses. Quicker & more predictable.

    Leave it to Seattle to try to experiment with Billions in a recession. Goldy, it’s only fair if Seattle wants to take a huge, unwise risk…they put their money where their pieholes are.

    Clusterf*ck!

  5. 5

    rick pierson is a bitch spews:

    I suppose a little Biblical wisdom of building your house on rock comes in a little handy right about now. So much for the beloved savior of science, it can’t even detect sand….

  6. 6

    Middle_of_the_Road spews:

    Remember this?
    McGinn would not fund viaduct tunnel
    by Goldy, 04/22/2009, 3:55 PM

    I stated that soft ground tunneling was risky and that there was news to come.

    World-class Cynic thought that I was full of shit. Screw you.

    I emailed Goldy to go snooping around on Beacon Hill.

    from seattlepostglobe.org
    “Gray said there’s no cause for concern.”
    “Gray said engineers don’t know yet why the hole appeared in front of Miller-Panganiban’s home, but not the other six voids.”

    Yeah, right.

  7. 7

    spews:

    Cynical… it was the state who never accepted the surface/transit option; we never asked for this tunnel.

    And I don’t agree that we know Big Bore will be clusterfuck. But we don’t know that it won’t, and I’m certainly not comfortable with the amount of study this option received before it was railroaded through.

  8. 8

    Mr. Cynical spews:

    7. Goldy spews:

    Cynical… it was the state who never accepted the surface/transit option; we never asked for this tunnel.

    In all your research, where did the political pressure come from for the tunnel?
    My guess is it came from waterfront property interests…but who else?
    Follow the money.

    I’m with ivan, retrofit the existing viaduct and call it a day. It could have/should have been done YEARS AGO. Man, time flies when you have endless consulting and bureaucracy. At least the consultants & bureaucrats made money and kept jobs TALKING IT TO DEATH!

  9. 9

    Mr. Cynical spews:

    Goldy–
    Are you aware that the Nisqually Earthquake that damaged the Viaduct and started this discussion happened in Feb., 2001…
    OVER 8 F***ing YEARS AGO!

    I would love to see both a timeline and expense summary (including all government staff-time ,,,salaries, benefits & overhead) that has been thrown at this project the past 8 F***ING YEARS!

    Taxpayers would be appalled.
    I’ll bet it was enough to retrofit it when you add up State, City & Kounty resources…plus any Fed money that was burned up.

    Little accountability.

    Has anyone ever found a timeline and expense summary of this one project??

    If so, post the link…I’d love to look at it.

  10. 10

    Daddy Love spews:

    9 Cyn

    All the information you could ask for is at dot.wa.gov

    But we’ve had several votes on the project and several elections as well (which I file under “accountability”) and all of the planning and proposals have been public. Doesn’t anyone remember?

  11. 11

    Mr. Cynical spews:

    DL–
    That helps…but doesn’t include what Seattle has spent.
    I do remember the several votes.
    It’s mind-boggling.

    This tunnel is doomed to failure.

  12. 12

    spews:

    Daddy Love thinks this is a goodthing:

    But we’ve had several votes on the project and several elections as well (which I file under “accountability”) and all of the planning and proposals have been public. Doesn’t anyone remember?

    I disagree. Not with the “public” aspect, but with the “votes” and “elections”. Wethepeople aren’t at all knowledgeable about road constraction, traffic patterns, infrastrucure modification, the seawall, or any of that stuff. All these votes have done is muddy the issues and gum up what could have been a reasonable process.

    As I’ve said before, I long for a 21st-century version of Robert Moses, a person with the vision and the power to actually accomplish something instead of talking (and talking, and talking, and talking…) about it.

  13. 13

    uptown spews:

    …found seven underground voids caused by its boring machine within a couple of blocks east of the future Beacon Hill station…

    Sounds like these happened when they were boring the crossovers tunnels, which is a different process.

  14. 14

    Michael spews:

    @3,7,8

    It’s not going to be a cluster-fuck because it’s never going to get built.

    The damn thing’s going to fall down before the squabbling stops, when the rubble gets cleaned up, tada you’ve got the surface street option.

    Retro-fitting is a expensive band-aid, not a solution.

  15. 15

    Michael spews:

    @12

    There are mayors like that out there, but unfortunately for us, they’re in New York, London and Paris.

  16. 16

    Michael spews:

    @12

    http://www.streetsblog.org/200.....#more-6065

    Bloomberg: MTA Plan Must Include Funding for Capital Projects

    by Ben Fried on May 4, 2009

    The mayor’s office just released a statement insisting that the MTA financing plan address the transit system’s long-term needs:

    As discussions for a permanent funding plan for the MTA continue, stop-gap measures that kick the big problems down the road must be rejected. For any plan to truly meet the needs of the metropolitan region’s people and our economy, it must include stable, reliable funding for capital projects. Our transportation infrastructure is aging, and expansion projects are absolutely critical to keep New York City and the surrounding counties moving forward. We must invest in the system, even during economically difficult times, or buses, railcars, stations, signals and tracks will fall into disrepair and commuters will suffer — just as happened in the 1970s.

  17. 17

    jon spews:

    That’s why as a condition of providing a couple billion dollars of funding in the recently passed transportation budget, legislators threw in a provision that requires Seattle taxpayers to pull out their checkbooks for any cost overruns.

    ————

    Yes, but, as has been pointed out, this “provision” is legally very problematic and whether Seattle’s good citizens could be made to pay for any overruns is an open question. In fact, legislators were certainly aware of this stumbling block at the time they voted, setting up a politically and fiscally messy issue down the road if there are overruns.

    Not the stuff of leadership.

  18. 18

    benign neglect spews:

    @17 – you’re way off base.

    That provision relating to who pays for cost overruns has nothing to do with taxpayers. It is a reference to a Local Improvement District. What the amendment to the bill Clibborn introduced says is that benefitted Seattle property owners would pay. That is LID terminology. There’s nothing legally problematic about it, jon.

    As soon as the possibility of overruns becomes public, the Port of Seattle will fire up its LID, and assess all the tens of thousands of property owners within the LID the amount of the overruns.

    That’s not an “open question” – it’s a fact of how the bill is structured.

  19. 19

    Statistics and Damn Statistics spews:

    LOL What a bunch of whining gits. This is all your own fault anyway! No matter WHAT we do, 48% of the populace won’t like it, and some nimby chicken hawk blowhard will start an initiative or law suit and drag out or stop the process of our new tunnel, viaduct, rebuild, surface street, whatever. It doesn’t matter. You notice on here there isn’t agreement on what do do either? The only thing that seems to get more than one vote here is “retro-fit” which isn’t even an option. That isn’t going to happen. The current structure isn’t stable enough to JUST retro-fit and keep it going for another 50 years. Even if you could somehow get that past everyone, it would be the DAMN ugliest thing on earth, a pile of steal and concrete with re-enforced wrappings around the pilings and all sorts extra steal skeleton structures. Just nuts.

    I agree, the deep tunnel is TOO expensive. I vote for tearing down the thing and building a CHEAP EASY SIMPLE cut & cover…a 25 foot deep ditch with a re-bar and asphalt roof. SIMPLE. No cave ins. No being stuck 250 feet underground in a crash or earthquake. No complex untested construction. simple simple simple.

  20. 20

    benign neglect spews:

    “This is all your own fault anyway!”

    Don’t blame me. This tunnel idea was hatched by the Cascadia Center of the Discovery Institute. The financing plan is a way for WSDOT to burn through Seattle property owners’ money. The whole concept of tunneling through glacial till is a bad one.

    Blame Nickels and the legislative leadership: they’re who’re trying to ram in down our throats.

  21. 21

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @1 Are you an engineer? No, didn’t think so. The engineers — i.e., people who know what they’re talking about — ruled out a retrofit. At some point fixing old structures doesn’t make economic sense, and that’s the case here.

  22. 22

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    Message to politicians: I’m not willing to pay one cent of property taxes for tunnel cost overruns, and I’d better not be forced to.

  23. 23

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    This is the same old bullshit. The public voted against a baseball stadium and got taxed for it anyway. The public was against a tunnel and they’re gonna build it anyway. Who do these arrogant jerks think they are?

  24. 24

    Niner Niner spews:

    Rog – Good to see you back. We just got cc’d (on the sly, natch!) on a “campaign priorities” memo circulating amongst the muckity-mucks of the BIAW. Guess what – they’re going to spend $4.5 million (cash in hand) going after Barbara Madsen.

    Time to go ballistic, Rog. Don’t know if Groen is their man or not, but you’ve got to rally the troops to keep Babs on the Bench.

    I knew I could count on ya, Rog!!

  25. 28

    ivan spews:

    Michael @ 14:

    You seem to forget, pal, that the Legislature has appropriated money for a new, rebuilt Viaduct. Once the tunnel doesn’t pencil out, THAT’s what you’ll get.

    Don’t be so quick to dismiss a retrofit. DOT nixed a retrofit in the first place because they said it had a short shelf life. You and your Green Taliban buddies might consider the retrofit, with its short shelf life, preferable to a rebuilt Viaduct, which would be there for a good bit longer.

  26. 30

    Mr. Cynical spews:

    ivan–
    How did you get so damn smart all of a sudden?
    I think this is the 2nd time I’ve ever agreed with you…I was so shocked the 1st time, I’ve already forgotten what it was.
    But this one I won’t forget.

  27. 32

    ivan spews:

    Well, lucky me! Like wow! Feel the love!

    But seriously — this is what Michael, and Goldy, and the stupid brats at the Stranger, and the rest of the smug little social engineering eco-weenies who pollute these comment threads simply do not understand.

    This area is project to grow in population by what, 25-50 percent in the next 25-50 years? That’s a lot of people. Exactly how in hell are they to get around?

    Unlike most of the righties, I’m for building all the mass transit we can. I want all the light rail we can get, more buses, more and bigger ferries, the works.

    But this is America and not Europe. Distances are greater here. We value our private transportation here, and the convenience and mobility that it provides, and people will go to any lengths, and make any sacrifices, to make it “sustainable” in their daily lives.

    The Greenies seem to think that the next generation will be all too willing to give that up, when there is no evidence whatever to support that for at least half the population, and that therefore we should not expand our highway capacity at any time, ever.

    The State Legislature and the Obama adminstration are not buying what the Greenies are selling. They understand that highway capacity must expand to keep pace with the projected population increases, IN ADDITION TO the expansion of the mass transit infrastructure.

    The tunnel does not provide that expansion — in fact, it lessens throughput — and at a healthy price. “Viaduct-lite” is no better.

    The “surface option” is a sick joke. Guess what, Greenies? It’s been tried before, and it has failed. WHY THE HELL DOES ANYBODY THINK THEY BUILT THE VIADUCT IN THE FIRST PLACE? And look at how much more traffic there is today, and how much more of it there will be tomorrow.

    The right wing’s hands aren’t clean, either. Every so often their liar for hire, Matt Rosenberg, comes up with another of his cockamamie police-state schemes to monitor our personal travel in his Brave New World of corporate tollways. It’s hardly any better than the odious and deservedly dead “Transit Oriented Development” bill that would have taken local planning authority away from cities and their inhabitants and regulated the number of miles you could drive.

    Except for safety issues like speed limits, tailgating, and red lights, I’m pretty libertarian when it comes to personal travel. I think the wack jobs on both the “left” and the “right” sorely underestimate people’s desire and determination to get around how they bloody well want to get around.

    For me, that means either retrofit the Viaduct, or build a new one, just like the old one.

  28. 33

    correctnotright spews:

    @32:
    Ivan says:

    But this is America and not Europe. Distances are greater here.

    Really, as if the distances in London and Paris are so much more than the Puget Sound areas? Do you get out much?

    However, this is a good argument:

    The State Legislature and the Obama adminstration are not buying what the Greenies are selling. They understand that highway capacity must expand to keep pace with the projected population increases, IN ADDITION TO the expansion of the mass transit infrastructure.

    The tunnel does not provide that expansion — in fact, it lessens throughput — and at a healthy price. “Viaduct-lite” is no better.

    Agreed – as we move towards green cars we still need the greater capacity and busses just foul up the traffic. Trains are better than busses and green cars are better than what we have.

  29. 34

    Steve spews:

    @32 I agree with much of what you say, however, I consider the partially lidded trench to be a reasonable compromise, especially if it were to address the aging seawall problem at the same time. There’s no engineering reason why there couldn’t be two levels of highway in the trench, increasing capacity.

    The I-5 bottleneck at Freeway Park and the Convention Center? That’s a tough nut to crack, but something’s got to be done about that someday, especially if the decision is to reduce capacity on the alternate through-city route, Highway 99.

  30. 35

    Marvin Stamn spews:

    34. Steve spews:
    I agree with much of what you say

     
    Last night you were agreeing with byebyegoober. Birds of a feather.
     
    Here’s a clue, you goatfucking faggot cunt. Our calling you a faggot cunt is not to belittle gays and women. It is to belittle you, you worthless goatfucking faggot cunt piece of shit.
    05/05/2009 AT 8:46 PM
    http://horsesass.org/?p=15786&.....ent-916253

  31. 36

    Steve spews:

    Got issues, have you, Marvin? We already knew that. That’s one reason GBS and I have tagged you, a self-loathing, gay-hating, woman-hating, wing-nut hypocrite, a “faggot cunt”. The irony seems lost on you. And your overreaction reveals all.

  32. 37

    Marvin Stamn spews:

    36. Steve spews:
    Got issues, have you, Marvin?

     
    You don’t see me calling people “faggots.”
     
    Here’s a clue, you goatfucking faggot cunt. Our calling you a faggot cunt is not to belittle gays and women. It is to belittle you, you worthless goatfucking faggot cunt piece of shit.
    05/05/2009 AT 8:46 PM
    http://horsesass.org/?p=15786&.....ent-916253

     
    Do you like my signature. Get used to it steve.
     

    The irony seems lost on you.

     
    Strange how the irony excuse is the same one david duke uses when talking about blacks. I wonder why. Oh yeah, birds of a feather.