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Letter To Council About Failed Tunnel Project (No Response)

Seattle Council Email About Tunnel Project Failure

Subject: Tunnel

Hate to say,” I told you so”, but the Tunnel mess is really coming to light. How many more billions are you going to pour down the sink hole? We could have had a nice flat surface road or a new viaduct by now but you have an endless pit. I wrote before that I thought digging a tunnel thru fill dirt right along the sound was about as stupid as anything you could dream up. The DOT, The Tunnel Partners have lied to you repeatedly. Why will you believe tem this morning when they come to assure you everything is “hunky dory”. You should invite former Governor Gregoire to come. How many times did she stand with a straight face and say, the tunnel will be built under budget and NOT ONE COST OVERRUN WILL BE PAID BY TAXPAYERS?

You have heard from strategists, planners, managers, and experts, but mostly from LIARS. This was a boondoggle from day one. You had 1.4 billion to build the tunnel. 1 billion is gone and you are not only at square one but worse than when you started. What are the odds of it ever getting built? I would say zero. If you think spending 400 billion more to try to keep from losing the 1 billion you already lost, you should definitely listen to Kenny Rodgers sing, The Gambler. That’s all you are doing now.(gambling) No one knows how much water you need to pump, The space where you pump water has to be filled with something. Do you want to keep on til the historic buildings start to shift and crack? Do you want to wait til the viaduct falls over because of your digging? Do you want to keep on til the pressure sends dirt up thru the hole you are trying to dig to repair Bertha. You have squandered enough money to build a new house for every homeless person in Seattle. You have squandered enough to repair every street in Seattle. On and on and on.

Take a special vote of the people of Seattle and especially the businesses that have been ruined by all this digging. Is was in insult for the Mayor to take advantage of King Street falling apart for a photo op. He doesn’t have a clue(neither does anyone else) why it is happening. Maybe you need to bring “Patty and Maria” for a photo shoot and have them promise all sort of Federal Funds. Remember Federal funds, County funds, City funds all come from the working peoples pocket. The money to build the tunnel is gone. Time to admit defeat. Give Bertha a burial and let some other fools a hundred years from now run into her when they try to dig again. Stop this madness and stand up for the people who voted you in to speak for them.

– That was my letter to the Seattle Council. There has been no response thus far.

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

The Mayor Agrees Tunnel Is Not The Best Solution

Mayor Mike McGinn

From: “Mike McGinn” <>
Sent: Monday, March 14, 2011 4:11 PM
To: lilly

Subject: Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement (00012049)

Dear Lilly,

Thanks for writing to me about the replacement of the Alaskan Way Viaduct. I share your commitment to a replacement solution that serves the best interests of Seattle residents.

I agree with you that the deep-bore tunnel is not the best solution, for many reasons. It is the most expensive option, does not serve our future transportation needs and is fundamentally flawed from an environmental perspective. The City Council and the State, however, have chosen the tunnel as their preferred alternative. But there is a very simple question that remains unanswered- who will pay? If the project goes over budget, as studies show is likely, what happens then? The state legislature says Seattle taxpayers will pay and I simply cannot support that. I have urged the City Council to join me in that position.

It’s increasingly clear that there are serious cost issues with the tunnel project but neither the state nor the City Council is willing to examine alternatives. I encourage you to contact both your City Council and state representatives with your concerns.

Thanks again for writing me. Please continue to keep in touch about this or any other issue.


Mike McGinn
Mayor of Seattle

Update: This email was provided to me from the Mayor of Seattle, Mike McGinn in 2011.

The Alaskan Way Viaduct, often succinctly referred to as “the viaduct,” stood as an elevated expressway in Seattle, Washington, USA, accommodating a portion of State Route 99 (SR 99). Spanning 2.2 miles (3.5 km) along the city’s waterfront, it stretched from the West Seattle Freeway in SoDo to the Battery Street Tunnel in Belltown, situated east of Alaskan Way and Elliott Bay.

Alaskan Way Viaduct – Before and After

Constructed in stages from 1949 to 1959, with its initial segment inaugurated on April 4, 1953, the viaduct functioned as one of the two principal north–south transport routes through Seattle, with the other being Interstate 5, facilitating transit for up to 91,000 vehicles daily in 2016. Along its route, it towered above Alaskan Way, a surface-level street, extending from S. Nevada Street in the south to the entrance of the Battery Street Tunnel in Belltown’s north, tracing pre-existing railway tracks.

Long perceived as an obstacle between the downtown area and the city’s waterfront, the viaduct faced replacement proposals dating back to the 1960s. Its seismic fragility came into the spotlight following damage to analogous freeways, some mirroring the viaduct’s design, in several earthquakes in various cities. While the 2001 Nisqually earthquake inflicted minor damage on the Alaskan Way Viaduct, subsequent evaluations revealed its susceptibility to a total collapse should another significant earthquake occur, thereby underscoring the imperative for its substitution.

A myriad of replacement options weighed by state and city administrations included a re-constructed elevated structure, a surface boulevard, and a cut-and-cover tunnel, yet a consensus on the ultimate decision remained elusive. A deep-bored tunnel emerged as the selected option in 2009. Subsequent to the demolition of the viaduct’s southern section in 2011, it was supplanted by a six-lane, single-deck freeway threading through the SoDo industrial zone. Excavation of the downtown bored tunnel by the tunnel boring machine, dubbed “Bertha,” commenced in 2013, concluding in 2017 following a two-year delay. The viaduct ceased operations permanently on January 11, 2019, making way for the new tunnel, which inaugurated three weeks later on February 4. The viaduct’s demolition ensued shortly thereafter, reaching completion by the close of 2019.

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