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Eight Blocks Of Rainier Ave Are Experiencing The Slow Burn Of Change, With Fires And Construction

Seattle Fire and Construction

Since 2020 Rainier Ave, just south of I-90, has seen multiple construction projects and fires throughout the area, including arson and encampment fires.

By Connor Nash

Rainer Ave has historically been known as one of the most dangerous streets in Seattle due to the high amount of car accidents and pedestrians being struck. But since 2020, Rainer Ave south of I-90 has also been scarred by several high-profile fires in the neighborhood.

The first flashpoint was the multiple fires at the former Rainer Farmer Market on the 2100 block of Rainer Ave back in 2020. Temporarily closed due to Covid, the farmer’s market was the target of four separate fires between July – August 2020. Unable to continually clean up and restore his business, owner Long Nygyen was forced to close permanently. By late 2021, Rainer Farmer Market was demolished.

Nygyen told King 5 News at the time,  “I don’t want to throw all my five years away but at the same time Seattle is just changing.”

The next major fire would occur in May 2022 with the vacant Borrachini Bakery located just south of College St. Like Rainer Farmer Market, Borrachini was closed due to Covid-19, and the fire is still considered “Undetermined” according to Seattle Fire.

According to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, fires in vacant buildings account for 6% of all fires, but 43% of all intentionally caused fires.

Then in 2023, three fires would occur in the same parking lot in just a few months. Two were at the abandoned Burger King, destroying the building, and one at the former 7/11, destroying that section of the building and forcing the closure of the neighboring Baskin Robbin. Some of these fires were accidentally set by homeless individuals, others are still undetermined.

Five major fires in less than three years would hurt any neighborhood, but over 10 massive buildings were either built or under-constructed in that same period, showing that developers are not blinking.

The map below shows that changing environment of Rainer Ave between Massachusetts St and College St.

Rainier Ave Seattle Map

The red dots show the fires, black dots show the closed businesses not due to fires, and the orange dot is the future light-rail station. The purple blocks are all the new construction projects which will include nearly 1,000 apartments (roughly 10% affordable units) and thousands of square feet dedicated to retail space.

The city approved all of these projects because Seattle is desperate for all types of housing units. But those housing units are being built in an area that is unsafe for pedestrians, especially if they want to use the upcoming light rail station. The retail space may be nice for future businesses, but nothing is being done to support the existing businesses in the area.

All of that retail space may be a great investment for those buildings located in the purple blocks, but these developers are just flooding the market with unaffordable retail space that may be left vacant for an extended period.

On the other hand, the city is doing very little to support any of the small businesses already established in the area. Small businesses like Dixon Furniture and Dere Auto, along with independent eateries like Sasha’s Espresso and Toshio’s Teriyaki may be pushed out by this rapid construction. Or see a flood of new businesses, since the future is uncertain for the area.

Overall, the Seattle city government has been indifferent to the independently owned small businesses and franchises that it claims to champion in the area and the entire city.

Meanwhile, the site of the former Rainer Farmer market is under review for a new 7-story mixed-used commercial building. Since it is a shiny new building, the city will most likely approve it, only flooding the neighborhood with more unaffordable retail space.

By Connor Nash

SDOT Finally Announces the West Seattle Bridge’s Opening Date

West Seattle Bridge

The Seattle Department of Transportation has established a date for the reopening of the West Seattle Bridge, which was closed for more than two years. On Sept. 12, the West Seattle Bridge, which has been closed for more than two years after discovering cracks considered to be hazardous, is slated to reopen after a lengthy restoration process.

As per the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT), the West Seattle Bridge has traditionally been the city’s most-trafficked bridge, transporting an average of 100,000 cars every day.

The bridge’s reopening date is many months behind the city’s original estimate. As a result of a lengthy concrete workers’ strike, the city’s high-profile projects and others around the area have been delayed.

Concrete pouring was slated to begin at the start of the year, but the contractor didn’t begin until mid-April, a month behind schedule. The structural concrete pour was completed on May 26 by the construction team.

In order for the bridge to reopen, technicians need to complete pouring epoxy into fractures, encapsulating carbon fiber to strengthen the structure, and post-tensioning using steel cables.

There are still “difficult and complicated” tasks ahead, and SDOT warns there may be unanticipated issues that might influence on the timetable, even though it says it would keep its contractor responsible to reach the revised timelines.

When inspectors observed fast-increasing fractures in the 40-year-old bridge on March 23, 2020, Gov. Jay Inslee had already ordered a stay-home order because of the pandemic. Repairs to avoid future cracking were finished in 2020 and the last phase of the project started in 2021, SDOT said.

It was at this point in time that the city was debating whether to repair or rebuild the bridge, which could have taken millions and kept the route closed until at least 2026 if the bridge was completely replaced.

During Jenny Durkan’s first term as mayor, she said that the city will rehabilitate the bridge as a means of boosting the economy, which depends on transportation.

The West Seattle Bridge Project History

Traditionally, the West Seattle Bridge has been the city’s busiest thoroughfare, with an average daily traffic count of more than 100,000 people.

Since its completion in 1984, the concrete bridge has served as a vital artery for the movement of people and products between West Seattle and its surrounding neighborhoods, including SODO and the Duwamish Valley.

The 1,300-foot-long, three-span bridge rises 140 feet over the Duwamish River at its highest point. Because the bridge was built on-site, workers built segments on each side of the piers until all segments were linked, making it an overhanging and segmental concrete bridge.

Travelers and companies in South Park, SODO, West Seattle, Georgetown, and Seattle meanwhile have been affected by the shutdown. SDOT is grateful for everyone’s perseverance and sense of camaraderie as they work through this difficult closing.

The 1st Avenue S Bridge and the South Park Bridge are two possible diversions. In order to guarantee quick emergency vehicle movement, the Spokane St. Swing Bridge has been limited to authorized users only.

Photo Credit: “Under west side of West Seattle Bridge” by theslowlane is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Seattle Tunnel Project More Troubles

Seattle Tunnel Project Big Bertha

The troubles continue with Big Bertha. We’ve talked about the issues many times on the Emerald City Journal and really we are just beating a dead horse on this one. You can read about more Big Bertha troubles here. It was reported that the city is starting to notice cracks around the tunneling efforts. The Washington State Transportation Dept. is making the claim and the city council is starting to hear more about the issue now. This includes cracks in the streets, buildings, and even the settling of buildings in Seattle’s Pioneer Square area. It shouldn’t come as a surprise really. Water continues to flood the dig area and it’s being sucked out constantly. It turns out when you dig below the sea level – there is water!! Well… that is good to know I wonder how many millions they spent to figure that out. The Seattle Council is expect to hear more about the issue with the machine and area cracking today.

This is all one big disaster and this project shouldn’t have ever started. It’s all bad and it continues to get worse. Big Bertha continues to break down not only itself but the city is now cracking all over the place. Time to cut the losses the make it one big flat area. Tear down the Viaduct, add some roads which connects the area more efficiently, a park, lots of parking (where you overcharge as usual $8 per hour), and call it a day.

The history of Big Bertha:
Named after Seattle’s only female mayor Bertha Knight Landes. The machine itself was created by Hitachi Zosen Sakai Works located in Osaka, Japan. The assembly, however, was done in Seattle 2013. The measurement of the machine is 57ft in diameter and as of 2013 was the largest in the World that is known.

There continues to be issues with Big Bertha today. Back in early Dec 2013 the machines progress took it first hit. A pipe was discovered in the area and Big Bertha was not equipped to handle metal cutting. The pipe damaged the machine and replacement blades were needed. WSDOT stated that they knew about the pipe but believed it was removed. Responsibility of the issue is still unknown. As of Dec. 6th 2013 Bertha has only been able to push through 11% of the project length of the project (1,019ft).

Feb. 2014 it was reported that Big Bertha had been experiencing an issue with overheating and a seal (a main seal) was damaged and needed replacement. This set back is expected to take until March 2015. Dec. 2014 crews are working to lift the front end of the machine for the repair. As noted in the article there are also reports of cracking in the streets and buildings so the Seattle Council is getting briefed on that issue as well (Dec. 15th 2014).

What is the Alaskan Way Viaduct?
The Viaduct had good intentions but has turned into one of Seattle’s worst nightmares. In short, it’s a double decked section of elevated road in downtown Seattle. It runs from Route 99 along the Elliot Bay waterfront and then into downtown Seattle. It transports about 110,000 cars per day. It’s called the Alaskan Way Viaduct because it runs about the street Alaskan Way. There was an earthquake (Nisqually earthquake) in 2001 that damage the viaduct and it continues to be a burden. There has been lots of debates and arguments of what to do with it exactly. One thing that everyone agrees on is that something must be done with it. Some have argued to just remove it and build a park, however, the City of Seattle Council took the initiative and decided to an alternative route of boring a tunnel with a machine by the name of Big Bertha. At this point Big Bertha has failed. It sits broken waiting to be fixed. There are reports that the area has shift due to the tunnel/boring efforts and water continues to flood the hole (being pumped out). Again with good intentions, the tunnel project has failed costing millions (and soon billions) in tax revenue. The project is estimated to cost $4.25 billion dollars.

Injuries are at their highest right now (2015) which has resulted in lots of compensation claims. From crushed hands to injured knees people has started to get hurt and it’s costing more and more money to support this tunnel project failure. Next time the state or Seattle complains about how bad the roads are and how they need to have you pay more in taxes – just remember where all the money is going. It’s going into this money pit. How about the pay by the mile program they are going to propose to you soon? Should we have to pay by the mile in taxes because our city government can’t cut the cord or determine a failed project. We’ve lost so much road repair money on this project at this point it’s sad politics. It’s come to point where it’s so obvious a failure that their egos don’t want it to fail. So they are going to throw more money at it hoping one day they can call it a success. The tunnel machine Bertha hasn’t even moved in a while. It’s been broken for months and not expect to start again until August of this year. When do we call is quits on this project? The city is sinking, people are getting hurt, it’s costing billions and billions – let’s pull the plug and build some interconnect roads in that area. Just flatten it and cut our loses.

Headlines About Seattle’s Big Bertha

Big Bertha Seattle Is A Failure

I feel the need to write a follow up on my previous story about Big Bertha. If you feel like singing and are happy with the progress you can hum this to the melody of Proud Mary



Not so Proud Bertha
Got me a job in the city,
Digging out a tunnel, ev’ry night and day
Never lost a minute sleepin’
Worryin’ about how things should have been.

My big wheel wont keep turnin’
Bertha’s gears, are burnin’
Its like rollin’, rollin” in a river.

Now for a few Headlines from the Times.
DRILL’S DEEP TROUBLES STARTED IN JAPAN. Before we ever got the machine it experienced the same leaky seals in Japan. Should have sent up red flags then and our experts should have been more concerned about whether the machine was worth the price rather than be concerned about getting it here to dig a tunnel that the taxpayers did not want.

DRILLING DOWN ON BIG BERTHA, MEGAPROJECTS-AND MUCH MORE. Once the problems started the blame game started. Big Bertha was in trouble from the start. So the communication between Lynn Peterson, Transportation Chief and Cris Dixon, Tunnel Project manager sort of broke down.

VIADUCT CRACKS SIGNAL STATE RACE AGAINST TIME. Of course they say it has absolutely nothing to do with the digging of the tunnel. Yeah right

SAGGING SECTION OF VIADUCT POSES NO DANGER, STATE SAYS. Why would this be put in a paper as headline news? If cracks and sagging poses no danger. What in the h—– are we tearing it down for and spending billions on a tunnel?

BERTHA WOES FRUSTRATE STATE. That’s no surprise when the machine stopped digging completely it could get a little frustrating.

MUCH POKING BUT NO CLUES ON WHAT’S BLOCKING BERTHA. Trying to see why Big Bertha quit digging, they discovered she was flooded. Geez Why didn’t they think of that? 110 feet below sea level. Who would have thunk.

BERTHA’S NEMESIS: 119 FEET OF STEEL WELL PIPE. State had put that well pipe in and forgot about it. Well we all lose our keys and things so maybe that’s how it happened.

BAILING BERTHA: WATER RUSHED IN. More wells needed to drain front of digger face. 90,000 gallons could be behind it. Will they have to drain the whole sound? Something is going to have to fill the space where the water is taken from.

KEEPING GROUND WATER AT BAY CRUCIAL IN REPAIR PLAN FOR BERTHA. Sudden loss of water could destabilize viaduct or Pioneer Square Buildings.

SEPT 1 GOAL FOR RESTART OF TUNNELING. Bertha stoppage to last 9 months. But no workers are being laid off and everyone gets a good paycheck.

FORECAST SEES NO LIGHT AT END OF TUNNEL TIL 2016. Report calls for healing rift between state and contractor. They need to admit it ain’t gonna work, no way, no how.

All of the above in caps are a few of the headlines from the Seattle times. Now my own comments. The only expertise I have on the tunnel is just using COMMON SENSE THINKING. You do not need a degree in civil engineering of road building to know that digging a tunnel (I call it a giant culvert, to carry water, not cars) right along the Puget Sound with a sea wall that is about to cave is about as stupid as anything anyone could come up with. What were they trying to accomplish by building the tunnel that could not be done far faster, safer and less expensive? They could rebuild another viaduct. It is a tourist attraction. Best view in Seattle. Cars can park under it, people can walk under it, it does NOT keep people from going to the water. Another alternative would be to tear it down, make a wide street and forget about it. No flooding, no caving, no one getting buried alive. OR if you are hell bent on a tunnel and clear view of the sound, just do a cut and cover. It could be covered over level and no one would even know it was there and cars would never get trapped 110 feet down in a flooded tunnel.
We should change songs from Proud Bertha to Lets call the whole thing Off…or you Got to know when to hold em, know when to fold em, know when to walk away, know when to run. Now is the time to cut the losses. This thing has only gone a little over a thousand feet, of the 1.7 miles needed. This happened where they can dig a football field sized hole to get to it and maybe bring the blade out, but IF they get it fixed from then on it’s under buildings, they can’t level Pioneer square to dig to it again. Please stop before it’s to late. Way too much dirt and water being taken out for it not to have an impact on the historic buildings. Can you imagine the loss of life if they get a lot of guys repairing the machine and the whole hill shifts. Stupid and expensive to keep up this digging. Taxpayers are getting taken for a ride for sure. When it’s taxpayers money they just don’t need to worry about expenses. Just up the sales tax, up bus fares, up anything with a surcharge and we can’t do a thing. Keep your letters and phone calls to the state officials. It is in an earthquake zone and I would rather get smashed on a viaduct than buried alive in a water filled tunnel.

Big Bertha and the Highway 99 Tunnel Project

Big Bertha Drill Seattle

The transportation department is crying for more funds. There is not enough funds in the World to keep them going. They have great plans (dreams) but never any that actually works or gets a job done on time or on budget. It looks like a bunch of key stone cops running around where Big Berta should be digging. First of all to even think of digging a tunnel right along Elliot Bay, thru soil that is very unstable because it was filled in was stupid. I hate to say I TOLD YOU SO, but it’s sure true. I wrote an article when they were deciding whether to shore up the viaduct, tear it down and let traffic find its way, or make a shallow cut and cover, then of course those would not make World headlines or create publicity, and lots and lots of jobs so without the people agreeing that they wanted a tunnel, the powers to be decided to build a tunnel. McGinn ran his campaign on the promise that he would STOP the tunnel. Yeah right!!!! They started the dig July 30. This is Jan 23. 200 days later they can’t agree on how far they have even gone but give them the benefit of 1000 feet. The public has been spun a tail of mistruths from day one if we are to believe what Transportation Secretary Lynn Peterson said last week. She said that the state had serious doubts about the drills “operations and critical systems” since the first day it started back in July. Wouldn’t that have been the time to speak up? One excuse after another has been given on the progress until lately the headlines in the Times and on the news have started sending up red flags. let me List a few headlines.

Dec 21, 2013  Bailing Bertha: Water rushes in. More wells needed to drain the digger face. More wells needed. 90,000 gallons could be behind it. etc etc. Well I got news for you that any idiot (or idiots) who thought they could dig a hole 110 feet deep right beside Elliot Bay at sea level of below and not run into water problems should definitely be on disability for mental problems not running this project. Then Dec 31,2013, headline was, Much poking but no clues on what’s blocking Bertha. Workers are burrowing holes to find what obstruction Bertha has ran into. They mentioned exotic things maybe from huge glaciers, maybe a locomotive or ship was buried there when it was filled in centuries ago, but the poking found nothing. Turns out that the mystery blockage was 119 ft of steel well pipe put there in 2000 by the Highway 99 projects own research crew. Then comes the blame game. I do not believe the tunnel project’s Director was told about the 8 inch thick pipe. Big Bertha uprooted 55 feet of the pipe on Dec 3, 2013. Right now the headlines have all changed. The headline of the Times Jan 17, 2014 was: “99 tunnel project’s director irked at state casting blame”. the article says that Seattle Partners project director Chris Dickson was surprised that the state blames them for the difficulties on the highway 99 tunnel project. Well who exactly would you blame if it is not the project director of the outfit hired to dig the tunnel?

There is a big opportunity for a lot of lawyers to make a bundle here. The whole mess can get stalled as it winds through the courts. The workers will all be paid to stand around or “do other small jobs” like they say they have been doing since the digging has stopped. Now it appears to be coming to a real expensive blockage of who told who what and when or why. One thing for sure the taxpayers are going to really get the shaft on this one. It was doomed from day one. All through the stoppage and non digging we have been told Bertha is working fine. Problems are always encountered on projects like these. That all studies have been done to guarantee this project will work just fine. The have discovered that the viaduct has settled 1/2 inch since the digging. How many 1/2 inches can the dirt settle around this project as it digs (if it ever does) under the historic buildings. The way this key stone cops project is going the hole they have dug may be filled in with the beautiful buildings they are going to dig under. I suggest it’s time to state the truth. Just tell us “this ain’t gonna work, no way, no how” and start a flat surface road or a shallow cut and cover. We can all stand to get screwed over, but we are all sick of being lied to. Such as another little headline. Disturbing Seawall news. There could be a 30 million overrun on this project. City transportation staff say there may be more troubles ahead due to the projects complexity.  What is even worse than that news is the fact those facts were known before the primary in the mayoral race but kept from the public or the Seattle City Council. Former Mayor Mike McGinn says the news was not buried. lol  Taxpayers can stand bad news, they can’t stand being flat out lied to. I hope when asked for a gas tax hike or anything else the legislature demands the STP and WSDT to lay out ALL THE FACTS, all the expenses. You cannot get our trust back very easy now. Our Washington is almost as bad as the other Washington. Please don’t say, “what difference does it make”. We know the difference between a liar and a spin doctor. You can’t send Susan Rice out to lie for you, so who will you send?

Lilly Marek

McGinn On Supreme Court Ruling (2/3 Voting)

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn

Mayor McGinn’s statement on state Supreme Court ruling
Yesterday, the state Supreme Court issued a ruling stating that a state law requiring a two-thirds vote in the Legislature to increase revenue is unconstitutional.

“I applaud the state Supreme Court’s decision. This opens the door to common sense returning to Olympia’s process to fully fund education and invest in our transportation system,” said Mayor McGinn.


This really surprised me (and not much the politicians do surprise me anymore). I can’t believe he would actually put in writing that the will of the voters mean absolutely nothing to him. We all know that includes almost every elected official but to admit it in writing and be proud of it. His e mail called the reader is sent to us voters who have signed up for it. lol  I hope when he runs for re-election this gets really circulated and can be filed under, “Put a fork in it, his goose is cooked”. But then if you look at what happened in November he could get voted in again. He won last time by running on the fact that he was Keep Reading

Seattle Streetcar Ten Million Dollar Plan

After the shock and disappointment of the election, I thought I would try to make a fresh start in my thinking and try to accept the fact that i just don’t fit into the way most Washington voters think. I thought I might just sort of give up and go with the flow, then the Times runs this big article that Mayor McGinn and the City Council are going to spend ten million dollars planning where some new street cars would go. This is just planning, and they don’t really have a clear cut idea of what they are planning so for sure they will run out of money fast. They say the city is broke. Had to re-do the bus routes and cut service to thousands of people. Georgetown had 3 buses and now we don’t have one bus along the highway or 4th ave. We have to either walk a half mile or so to get to the only bus stop in Georgetown that will get us to town without transferring. We have a little community of residents that the 131 got us downtown and to Burien for years but now it comes from Burien over the 1st Ave Bridge and the only stop at what they call their new and improved service for Georgetown is at Keep Reading

Seattle Will Spend $290 Million+ On Seawall Repair

With overwhelming support of 77%, Seattle will spend an estimated $290 million dollars to repair the Elliott Bay seawall.  It was perfect timing considering the scarcity spoken by the council and Sandy hitting the east coast.  Being fresh in voters minds it was an easy pass.  Of course many don’t understand the consequences of approving it.  Such as their property taxes being raised $68 per year, however, many vote without even understanding most of the details.

The voters also approved a $119 million dollar levy to automate finger print processing at crime scenes.  Seems pretty expensive to me considering they already have a system in place and all they really needed was a larger Internet WIFI range to access and process that info.  That really is a cheap expense if done properly, however, I have said it many times the Seattle City Council does believe Keep Reading

Seattle’s Corson Avenue War Zone – PT. 2

This is a follow-up post we created when Georgetown’s Corson Ave was shut down for several months while they made it “more safe”.   The Georgetown Corson Ave post had some initial photos we took.  We have several more now available.  This has to be one of the worst road jobs I have ever seen.  They didn’t even pave the road!  Now it just has a bunch of patches all over the place. 

Georgetown Corson Ave Construction Update

Seattle Construction Area Photo

The road construction project continues in Georgetown on Corson Ave.  A project that could have been pushed a few years is now more tax money wasted.  With all the public transit in trouble, you would think we could have transitioned some of this money (perhaps a million) to help people get to work and continue to ride the bus.   I guess paving a road is more important then keeping people working and getting them to work on time (without cutting more routes).  Not only are we wasting money for this paving project that could have been used better elsewhere we are also wasting additional police resources who will be sitting around (playing on the Internet in their cars) at the construction project to help watch flaggers direct vehicles around the area. 

The Georgetown Corson Ave construction project is about to start.
There goes Corson Ave, Seattle
They paved it but still dirty
It’s time for more cleanup and starting on the other side of the street.

To continue on this topic, Georgetown’s Corson Ave was shut down for several months while they made it “more safe”.   Above and below, you’ll see some of the construction photos. We have several more now available.  This has to be one of the worst road jobs I have ever seen.  They didn’t even pave the road!  Now it is has a bunch of patches all over the place. 

Here are the final photos of the Corson Ave Street construction project. 2011

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