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Big Dig West

[ 70 ] January 11, 2014 |

I’d be a strong opponent of this project if there was a 100% chance it would come in on time and on budget, and usage projections were guaranteed; best case scenario it’s an incredibly wasteful misallocation of transportation resources. If you asked people how ~3 billion dollars could be best spent to improve Seattle and the Puget Sound’s transportation woes, would anyone have actually said “build a tunnel that allows ~50K motorists a day to pay $7 dollars for the privilege of bypassing downtown alltogether”?

But, of course, the chances that it wuold come in on time and on budget have always been virtually nil, and the fact that Seattle alone is on the hook for cost overruns, an utterly unique arrangement for WSDOT projects, makes this all the more appalling. I can’t decide if I should be rooting for huge problems now in the hopes that the project gets cancelled or for a relatively few issues and delays such that Seattle’s burden won’t be too great. At any rate, even I didn’t realize just how incompetent WSDOT was:

 

WSDOT’s other problem is a pipe blocking “Bertha”, the tunnel boring machine building the Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement. Bertha became stuck whilst boring and apparently there are a lot of complications getting the entire pipe out because of Bertha’s size and position relative to the pipe and its location.

What makes pipe incident so frustrating is that WSDOT itself put the pipe there. And not for some other project, but for research testing the soil and groundwater conditions for this very tunnelling project.This really raises a lot of questions about WSDOT’s culture and efficacy dealing with contractors. The Seattle Times again (different article):

The 2002 well site was listed in reference materials provided to construction bidders, as part of the contract specifications.“I don’t want people to say WSDOT didn’t know where its own pipe was, because it did,” said state spokesman Lars Erickson. However, Chris Dixon, STP’s project director, said the builders presumed it had been removed.

Who’s reviewing these plans? Isn’t some one there to ensure the plan has taken into account all the information? Who’s there to look at the tunnel plan, check against the soil map they presumably used to plan the tunnelling and say “hm, better make sure this pipe has been removed”. No big deal? We’re only spending billions of dollars here. And why is WSDOT leaving 119-foot steel pipes in the ground anyway? By my very rough calculation, the pipe itself is $15,000 worth of scrap steel** (I’m sure WSDOT spent much more). Now we’re wasting millions getting out of the ground.

I don’t know if this project is actually worse than lighting 3 billion on fire. (There’s actually some very inefficient Keynesian stimulation for trying to build it). But I have very little doubt this project is significantly worse for Seattle and the region than a 3 billion dollar helicopter drop.

Comments (70)

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  1. Joshua says:

    Big Dig was a disaster of overruns, of course, but I think it is generally accepted that it was a massive improvement for Boston once completed, for both motorists and pedestrians.

    That doesn’t mean Big Dig is a good thing for every city of course.

    • Red_cted says:

      Big Dig was at the time compared to doing open heart surgery on a patient who continued to go to work during the operation, so it is no surprise that there were big cost overruns. Also “Bechtel”…

    • JL says:

      Yeah, the completed Big Dig is great. I say that as someone who mostly dislikes driving and car culture. I can go downtown and walk around and there’s not a damn highway through the middle of places that I want to be. It makes downtown easier to navigate, and more pleasant, as a pedestrian or cyclist. Meanwhile, people trying to drive to, say, the airport, can get there quickly and easily.

      Honestly it makes me think that more cities should replace the highways that scar and split their downtowns with underground highways.

      • Anonymous says:

        I think that’s likely to happen in reverse. If global warming goes the way it’s predicted, I think we’re going to have to go underground to survive. Something like Isaac Asimov’s cities in his Robots series, before Hari Se;dpm. Or the city of Trantor, for that matter. So then the highways could stay on the surface, but cars would need to be able to withstand the extreme weather, but people could live underground where temperatures are more stable and controllable.

  2. West of the Cascades says:

    Seattle could’ve sent the money down here to Portland – at least we’d spend it on beer and coffee (since every infrastructure project that’ll be proposed for the next 50 years will die due to unacceptable impacts to the environment).

  3. Nobdy says:

    Municipal incompetence makes me incredibly angry because it feeds the fire of conservatism when people rightfully believe their taxes are being wasted or poorly spent.

    Liberals need to demand not just more government but effective and good government. The kind of government that doesn’t block its own operations with its own pipe.

    • Brian Moore says:

      Municipal incompetence makes me incredibly angry because it feeds the fire of conservatism…

      Well wake up Li’l Suzie because the incompetence of government, especially at the federal level does exactly the same thing.
      ACA is the biggest blunder and the biggest gift to conservatives in decades. And then having the president say all of those things that simply were not true also demonstrated the incompetence, not to mention the management of the rollout.

      So, you may lament the blunder of this project in WS, but please be aware of what’s happening nationally.

      • Francis Volpe says:

        Yeah, no. ACA is not a blunder. Some fairly significant blunders have been made during implementation, although the website difficulties are only slightly worse than what is actually the run of the mill for huge IT projects of that kind — otherwise Scott Adams would never have created “Dilbert.” But Americans in general are better off with ACA than without it. Everybody would have been better off entirely if they had dropped the eligibility age of Medicare to 0, but that’s been litigated in a billion comment threads already.

        • Brian Moore says:

          Yeah, no. ACA is not a blunder. Some fairly significant blunders have been made during implementation, although the website difficulties are only slightly worse than what is actually the run of the mill for huge IT projects of that kind…

          It wasn’t the website I was referring to. That can be fixed. I believe that as ACA starts involving those who have access through their employer, this shit will hit the fan.

  4. Buzzcook says:

    The tunnel was one of three options for fixing the problems of the earthquake vulnerable West Seattle Viaduct.

    It was the most expensive option. It was also the option that allowed some traffic through the area during construction.

    While I would have preferred a less expensive option, there is no doubt that something had to be done.

    • Nathanael says:

      As noted below, the “deep tunnel” was actually one of four options, along with “new viaduct”, “surface and transit”, and “shallow tunnel”. It was the only one to be rejected during “Alternatives Analysis”, and by *far* the most expensive, and also the least functional, since it has no downtown exits.

  5. Pete Mack says:

    Well, the current Alaska Viaduct is both a disaster waiting to happen and a significant eye-sore. Replacing it with a tunnel is the least-bad option. It will open up a lot of real estate right on the waterfront that’s currently taken up with cavernous antique stores and parking lots. The $7 toll is no different from the existing toll on 520. I am definitely on the other side of this issue. (The original poster also shows his bias: the SAME CONTRACTOR did the ULink tunnel as is doing Big Bertha. It can’t both be incompetent and better-than-expected.)

    • The prophet Nostradumbass says:

      Every time I see the viaduct, my first thought is “Cypress Structure”.

      • Pete Mack says:

        Yup. I was there for the Loma Prieta quake. If I have to relive it, I don’t want to see people squashed like bugs again.

        • Jamie says:

          You have to recognize that urban areas are going to see mass death episodes. It happens. I live in downtown SF and used to live in Brooklyn, and was there on the Awful Day. I gave out water to people coming over the bridge, because I was there and I didn’t know what else to do. It was heartbreaking. I accept this reality. I expect some nasty thing to happen here in the near future. It is what happens.

          I was also there when the grid melted down. That was actually just a party.

          Sure, pols will make hay, whatever. From a policy perspective, nothing has changed. Evil people still evil, film at 11. Fuck those people. The rest of us go to work in the morning.

          • Pete Mack says:

            Bullshit. You need to take Tuchman’s definition of folly into play: actions that were (accurately!) predicted to be foolish by experts at that time. Her examples were the Viet Nam war, the Trojan Horse, etc. The WTC wasn’t predicted to fall, but airplanes without security doors were known to be a bad idea (Israel has had them since the 1980s!)

            Your argument only applies insofar as people don’t recognize that the Viaduct needs to come down.

            • Another Holocene Human says:

              Not predicted to fall, no, but WTC had to get a zoning variance to be built with such a crappy fire escape system and under-engineering.

              When the building caught on fire it failed structurally AND the fire stairwells failed. They were not adequate to evacuate the building in a timely manner, leading to the deaths of thousands.

              OBL had tried to bomb the basement first. The building kinda shrugged.

              PS: NY skyscrapers are required to survive airplane strikes (usually such strikes are accidental). Many skyscrapers in Manhattan have survived strikes AND fires that resulted. Another engineering FAIL.

              Nobody wants to talk about that.

          • Pete Mack says:

            PS: Sure, you can argue that loss of the Viaduct in a quake is an “acceptable loss”, but that would mean accepting the cost of rebuilding without any current structure. That’s the same argument in favor of a dug tunnel–which would mean a long time with only I-5–rather than a bored one.

          • djw says:

            I disagree with Pete Mack on the tunnel but he’s right about the viaduct: in its current form it’s got to go. Bad things happen, but we’re a wealthy enough society to make our West Coast cities’ built environment relatively earthquake safe (Indeed, this is one more reason to hate the tunnel project; it extended the life of the viaduct a good five years relative to other plans.)

    • djw says:

      The $7 toll is no different from the existing toll on 520.

      Yes, and this is a part of why this is a terrible use of resources. Since 520 started tolling, bridge use has declined, and 90 has much more traffic. Drivers in the region are unaccustomed to tolls and actively avoid them when possible. Eventually WSDOT will deal with this by tolling I-90. There is no such option to catch fare avoiders using surface streets.

      (The original poster also shows his bias: the SAME CONTRACTOR did the ULink tunnel as is doing Big Bertha. It can’t both be incompetent and better-than-expected.)

      No, I was not casting aspersions on the contractor but on WSDOT. When they work with a competent agency they do fine, when they work with a less competent one they have problems.

  6. futbol says:

    the capitalized cost of the project comes out to about 8 dollars per trip per day if its cost and useage are as projected.

    more land and less traffic and pollution in the CBD also have great benefits.

    the Boston big dig I consider an amazing success. we are a rich country and can afford to do great things to improve our biggest cities.

    so what if you think there are better uses of the money? I could say the same thing about 99% of government spending. it is an inherently right wing mode of argument.

    • Nathanael says:

      The Boston Big Dig increased pollution. It was an bad thing to build.

      The state of Massachusetts was required to do a bunch of anti-pollution projects as compensation, and has been trying to weasel out of them ever since.

      • The Big Dig helped revitalize the North End, West End, and the backside (word intended) of Downtown Crossing. The central artery should have never been built in the first place.

        Regarding air pollution, while the Big Dig hasn’t made things better (and Boston’s population has been growing), it has not made things worse either.

        • Nathanael says:

          Um, the numbers disagree and say that the Big Dig did make pollution somewhat worse. I don’t have them on me right now but I’ve seen ‘em before.

          The problem is that the Big Dig made it easier to drive through Boston (because it was wider than the viaduct it replaced), and as a result there are more cars driving through downtown Boston on it, spewing more tailpipe pollution. If it hadn’t been built, those trips would either not have been taken, or would have been diverted to public transportation or carsharing or something similar.

          If the Central Artery Viaduct had been knocked down AND the Big Dig hadn’t been built, the results would be even better, of course. I agree that the Central Artery should never have been built in the first place.

          • Marek says:

            A trip to the airport now takes 20 minutes, used to take 45 minutes. There would have to be a lot more trips through that tunnel for there to be an increase in air pollution.

      • Another Holocene Human says:

        Since more pollution is caused by stalling/idling than by running through, I think you need more than vehicle counts to substantiate your assertion here.

        Now all the lying/stealing that defunded the transit mitigation projects (part of that was transit mitigation DURING the project, BTW, some of it was part of a total political package which of course the GOP state leadership just plain stonewalled/cheated on, some of it was CMAQ) is a totally valid criticism.

        Turning the waterfront trolley into a dual mode diesel mess because some connected BDA crooks (they’re all crooks) were scared of seeing trolley wires (wtf, all the cool cities are doing it, also, never heard of in ground power pickup, aka 1940s DC Transit?) was some shit. Also. Too.

        I blame Volpe Center for turning the streetcar Boston and Dorchester wanted into some effed up bus lane crap (“silver line”).

        It wasn’t just dropping transit projects, it was putting asthma-causing diesel backup fumes and rubber tire pollution in urban (cough high Black, Hispanic, immmigrant) ‘hoods in place of no pollution electric steel tired transportation.

        Fuck those motherfuckers.

  7. winstongator says:

    I challenge you to name a single $3Bln project that has come in exactly on-time and on-budget. I don’t think I’ve been on a $3Mln project that has met those two criteria (for keyboard commandos – talk to someone in tech and see what their opinion is). If you require that, you end up with people completely sand-bagging their projections, and then the project will look so bad, it won’t get started.

    When someone says this: “There won’t be any cost overruns.”, they are either an idiot or a liar. Either way, they should not be trusted with the planning of a major project. Being an idiot is fine. Lots of society does not actually make big things. How many law firms say, your case will cost $500k to argue? Any? They all charge by the hour, AND pump cases to maximize billable hours.

    • Daniel says:

      To see a $3B tunnel project that was on time and under budget, you don’t even have to leave Seattle. Sound Transit (one of the local transit agencies) built two subway tunnels through the city, from Downtown to the University District. Not only did they stay within their budget, they will open the new subway six months early.

      Sound Transit runs a tight ship, and keeps a careful eye on their contractors. WSDOT does not. End of story.

    • djw says:

      Perhaps I wasn’t clear: that the project would go over is of course something I could accept; I’m well aware that 90%+ do. (Although since you challenged me to do so: it’s looking like Ulink might be an exception. Two billion instead of three, and it’s not a certainty yet, although most of the most unpredictable stuff is done.) My point was the tunnel would be a very bad use of resources even if it did stay on budget. And since the state insists Seattle pay for all the costs overruns, this is a pretty big deal–it could suck up money the city could otherwise use to expand public transit a decade from now–at best, we’re probably only going to get one of UW-Ballard and Ballard–Seattle grade separated rapid transit in ST3.

  8. 12thFen says:

    Seattle resident here. There were three options to replace the existing Viaduct:

    1. A new, larger, much wider one
    2. A tunnel
    3. A “surface/transit” option, which would dump 50K vehicles through downtown (or an overloaded I-5) everyday and nebulous, never-defined “transit” improvements.

    Of those, only the tunnel option would enable simultaneous planning and design of the Seattle Waterfront Project, which is a park/transit/urban planning renewal project for Seattle’s waterfront (designed by the guy who did the NYC High Line).

    Yes, a tunnel risky and expensive, but it’s also the only of the options that allowed a complete redefinition of Seattle’s downtown core.

    • Pete Mack says:

      What (s)he said. It is the least-bad option. In a valuable high-density urban area, tunnels really are the best option for traffic arteries.

    • Anonymous says:

      #1: The new elevated structure was actually shrunk in the final design – it would have lost a lane compared to the current viaduct, and since it would have been a center-supported structure, it would have had a lot less visual bulk, and would have been stacked over the surface boulevard.

      #2: The original cut & cover tunnel design included exits for downtown and interbay/magnolia/ballard, which is where the majority of current Viaduct traffic is going according to WSDOT’s own traffic studies. In the current bored tunnel option, there’s no exits at all, and the majority of current viaduct traffic will be dumped onto a new waterfront 6-lane surface street – Aurora on the waterfront. Surface highways are the only thing worse than elevated highways – even the elevated rebuild would have been better than this. Who’s going to want to visit our grand waterfront park if it’s backing up against a new Aurora?

      #3 Surface/Transit included very extensive, targeted upgrades to the downtown street grid and signaling system, as well as upgrades to I-5 that would have added a new lane through downtown to handle the extra traffic. As is, between traffic diversion from the tunnel’s tolls and the deleted exits, the bored tunnel is going to dump just as much extra traffic onto I-5 and into the downtown grid, but without any of the improvements Surface/Transit included to handle the extra traffic.

      • stevesliva says:

        I have to say it’s really weird that the tunnel doesn’t have a fork that goes to Elliot Ave in the Interbay. But *that* also has to do with it being a state project. Like the state wanted to spend another few hundred million making state route 99 more useful. They just wanted to make sure there was still another N-S route to try to avoid Seattle.

    • Lack Thereof says:

      #1: The new elevated structure was actually shrunk in the final design – it would have lost a lane compared to the current viaduct, and since it would have been a center-supported structure, it would have had a lot less visual bulk, and would have been stacked over the surface boulevard.

      #2: The original cut & cover tunnel design included exits for downtown and interbay/magnolia/ballard, which is where the majority of current Viaduct traffic is going according to WSDOT’s own traffic studies. In the current bored tunnel option, there’s no exits at all, and the majority of current viaduct traffic will be dumped onto a new waterfront 6-lane surface street – Aurora on the waterfront. Surface highways are the only thing worse than elevated highways – even the elevated rebuild would have been better than this. Who’s going to want to visit our grand waterfront park if it’s backing up against a new Aurora?

      #3 Surface/Transit included very extensive, targeted upgrades to the downtown street grid and signaling system, as well as upgrades to I-5 that would have added a new lane through downtown to handle the extra traffic. As is, between traffic diversion from the tunnel’s tolls and the deleted exits, the bored tunnel is going to dump just as much extra traffic onto I-5 and into the downtown grid, but without any of the improvements Surface/Transit included to handle the extra traffic.

      • Pete Mack says:

        Well, #3 is fairly independent: you can still do it with either (1) (2) or (2a) [bored tunnel]. I just don’t see (3) alone taking up the slack from the existing Viaduct. I agree that a dug tunnel would be great, but it would only be feasible if the existing Viaduct were lost to an earthquake. The disruption to current traffic patterns for (2) or (1) would be really extreme.

        • djw says:

          I just don’t see (3) alone taking up the slack from the existing Viaduct.

          It probably wouldn’t take up all of the slack. But that’s hardly a point against the plan compared to the tunnel, is it? It would have taken up more of the slack than the tunnel, which is useless for a majority of current viaduct users (without even considering the fare avoiders).

    • Nathanael says:

      There were actually two tunnel options.

      A shallow tunnel, which could be combined with the giant, expensive seawall rebuilding project which had to be done anyway;

      …or a deep tunnel, which had all kinds of geotechnical risk and left the seawall still needing to be rebuilt, so that the deep tunnel was rejected early on in the “Alternatives Analysis”.

      They’re building the deep tunnel, of course, because this is crazyland.

    • djw says:

      3. A “surface/transit” option, which would dump 50K vehicles through downtown (or an overloaded I-5) everyday and nebulous, never-defined “transit” improvements.

      You realize replacing the viaduct with a no downtown exit tunnel is dumping more than 50K vehicles downtown, right?

      According to WSDOT’s own studies, the “surface/transit” would have a virtually identical impact on downtown traffic than the tunnel:

      The data shows surface/transit performing slightly better in the downtown system overall, with fewer miles traveled, fewer hours traveled, and less delay. Specifically, hours of delay would drop from 37,500 hours with a tolled tunnel program to 36,700 hours with a surface option. Hours of overall travel drop from 106,600 to 103,600, and miles traveled drops from 2.5 million to 2.4 million.(source)

  9. Eli Rabett says:

    After the W Side highway in NY fell down the surface road worked fine.

  10. bobbyp says:

    As a public works contractor I can only say it generally is the bidder’s responsibility to verify conditions indicated in the plans and/or specifications. WSDOT told then it was there. I could see a big court battle if the city is charged for project delay due to this situation.

    WSDOT’s bigger snafu is the design error on the 520 bridge for which they alone are responsible.

    Plus what 12thFen said.

  11. Shakezula says:

    I will use this as an opportunity to contribute this amusing story from Maryland.

    Concrete not strong enough to sustain the daily strain on the transit center is one of multiple design and construction failures identified by engineering consultants last week in a report on the $112 million train-and-bus hub, which is $80 million over budget and two years behind schedule. It was found to be unsafe and in need of significant repairs because of cracking and a lack of supporting steel in key locations.

  12. dp says:

    As a Saints fan, I’d say the money would be better spent on a domed stadium for the Seahawks! ;-)

  13. Chris Mealy says:

    If you think global warming is real then you can’t be in favor of urban highways. Even cars powered by pixies dust would require tremendous amounts of energy to build, store, and pave roads for. If you’re enabling car-based living you’re doing wrong.

    The underlying problem with these megaprojects is that they all involve free federal money, so the local political establishment and the unions all love them no matter horrible they are. Our last mayor in Seattle tried to fight it and the whole goddam system shut him down. They all say they’re environmentalists but when the feds show up with free money all that goes in the toilet.

    • djw says:

      If you think global warming is real then you can’t be in favor of urban highways. Even cars powered by pixies dust would require tremendous amounts of energy to build, store, and pave roads for.

      Indeed. But even if you don’t, you might notice that car use in Seattle has been declining for 15 years now, even as population and economic activity grow. Any megaproject to enhance regional mobility should, at a minimum, enhance transit as well as cars. This tunnel is considerably less useful than the current viaduct is, since it’s hard to imagine a bus route that would have any kind of use for it (maybe a commuter express from West Seattle to UW, but once Ulink opens even that would be redundant).

  14. Gone2Ground says:

    Not a heavy civil contractor, but a contractor….the size, scope, and complexity of these types of projects really cannot be overstated. And all for “low bid”, probably on a very tight bid timeline, and with probably 50K pages of documents to wade through.

    I’ve worked on projects where the entire scope had to be re-evaluated and redone to the tune of huge cost overruns because the Owner did not do enough due diligence in the beginning…I’m talking a few thousand dollars in investigation to uncover problems versus several hundred thousand dollars to fix it…and sometimes I think the rules are designed this way. If an agency wants to undertake a big project, for example, the first thing the funders are going to want to know is “how much?” If the agency lowballs it, the project might get approved. Then when changes happen, it’s just too late to turn back, problems must be addressed, and the money appears. Not without a lot of screaming and crying, but it will appear, typically. It’s part of the nature of public money, which is parsed out very carefully in the name of not “wasting” it.

    And as my dad used to say, “you’ve got to expect losses in a big operation”.

  15. MV says:

    First, 119 foot water level monitoring wells aren’t normally removed. Any geologist could tell you that.

    Second, Seattle and Washington are screwed since the contractor believes that they should be. That indicates that they really aren’t qualified to run the project. Or maybe they are just engineers….

  16. jkay says:

    As an actual engineer, I can tell you that tunneling’s so incredibly expensive it pretty much IS burning money the fastest way you can, with absurd overruns. Now, the Holland Tunnel had to done, and the Big Dig HAD to be a tunnel and had to be done because there was NO room and the city was hopelessly in traffic. But Seattle isn’t Boston. No, I’m a network engineer, but I found out when helping set up a long network that included tunnels.

    I wonder if somebody in WSDOT has a percentage of expenses corrupt understanding.

    • Another Holocene Human says:

      The geography/geology of Seattle also makes this a particularly bad idea.

      The same in Boston made giving the engineering contract to a Cali firm a particularly bad idea, not that that stopped WASP carpetbagger and Upperclass Twit of the Year William Weld.

  17. e.a.f. says:

    Just a little north of Seattle in Greater Vancouver, British Columbia the government has been spending money on bridges, 2, 3 billion a pop. they make them private/public partnerships, then charge tolls of $3 each way. None of them are on time or on budget. they usually say that because, half way through when they realize it will be another few hundred million and a yr, they give new dates and amounts. when they meet those, they say they are on time and on budget.

    one of these edifices isn’t being used by commuters. they won’t pay the toll and go the long way around,. The new Port Mann Bridge, 3 billion or so, people are taking other toll free bridges.

    The cost of living keeps going up, but the wages don’t. People can’t afford the tolls. Usually these bridges, tunnels are way over budget and should not be built or if built, get a company who knows how to do it and have an auditor general overseeing the whole thing. Most of these projects make money for the builders and add nothing to the quality of life of the citizens. Sometimes these things get built because it opens land in an area developers want to move into. They figure if the government will built a bridge the commuters will come and they can sell houses.

  18. [...] Big Dig West — Wow, this is serious stupidity up in Seattle, thanks to WSDOT. [...]

  19. Fledermaus says:

    As another Seattle resident, I’ve thought this tunnel is stupid. Who is going to pay $7 just to drive 2 miles when I-5 is there and toll free. All so the city can give away sweetheart deals to developers on the waterfront.

  20. Another Holocene Human says:

    This project has always been a spiteful and vicious attack on urbanites (who like to use streets to live and walk on) by angry suburban and eastern wasteland voters who are pissed that Seattle has just barely wrested political control. They had the clout to push this turd through, so they did. Smart growth/complete streets/transit/bike advocates are livid. Which I guess in the point. It’s like some sort of 1960s wet dream but without the bulldozing of “minority” neighborhoods, guess they missed a spot.

    The city should just stop all funding if that’s going to be WSDOT’s line and hold the damn thing up until the next election then let the next gov & their team fire all the head honchos at WSDOT.

    A reverse Cleveland.

  21. JustRuss says:

    I know monorail is a bit of a four-letter word in Seattle these days, but seems like you could build quite a system for what this tunnel will cost, and alleviate a lot of traffic heading downtown. Too crazy?

  22. Red Menace says:

    For what it’s worth the new Tacoma Narrows Bridge came in under budget and on time. I have been involved in building a scaled down version of one of these mega-projects and I can tell you that this sort of screw up has the fingerprints of the design and build engineers all over it. Usually the elected officials are so involved in fighting the antis and making sure all the players get their cut that the engineering firms make their fees eat as much of the budget as is possible. The type of well casing sunk to sample and log the soils in the way of the tunneling machine isn’t designed to be removed. I could go on about the rotary versus shoe and casing technique of well sinking but suffice it to say the engineers like the shoe and casing drilling because it is slower, generating more engineering fees. The inefficiencies of modern mega-projects will make you tear your hair out and drove me to quit municipal politics. Petty and venal corruption would be understandable, but the corruption built into these public works by statute is nothing short of evil. I am a proud liberal to leftist and hate to see the people’s resources squandered in such disasters as the Seattle Waterfront Tunnel. The upshot is that the Democrats will probably lose any chance of re-taking the Washington State Senate and we will be gridlocked by the Republican Teabaggers that hang like fleas off the Eastern haunches of this wonderful state.

  23. Ron says:

    I live in Seattle and only like the tunnel as economic stimulus during a recession. The viaduct should have been torn down immediately after the earthquake and replaced by a two lane road with excess right of way used for waterfront park/open space and portions sold for development (condo/office). Highway 99 should have been routed to the port and I-5. I-5 through Seattle should be variably tolled. Billions are being spent on Sound Transit and Metro King County/regional buses. Those plans and maintenance of existing roads will be fine for the next 100 years.

  24. jimmycrackcorn says:

    The United States is the world’s high cost producer for tunnels, bar none. Even the Swiss can dig a tunnel cheaper than we can. for a mere 30% premium to the Seattle tunnel, the Swiss can dig 90 MILES of tunnel. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gotthard_Base_Tunnel

    Why?

  25. [...] to get some pushback on the notion that deep bore tunnel project in Seattle was a terrible idea in my previous post on the subject. I think I can see where it comes from psychologically–the viaduct, while ugly [...]

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