Five years after a collaborative planning effort was launched with help from CONCUR, the Governor of the State of Washington, Transportation Secretary Paula Hammond, and other political leaders joined on June 6 to break ground on the State Rte. 99 tunnel in downtown Seattle. The next milestone in the project is to create a pit to house the giant boring machine that will excavate the path for the 57-foot-wide, 1.7 mile long tunnel.
The $80 million drill will be 300 feet long and weigh 5,500 tons. Crews soon will start digging a pit from which the machine will work its way 1.7 miles from Pioneer Square to a north portal in South Lake Union. The machine is under construction now in Osaka, Japan, and will be delivered to Seattle in early 2013. The tunnel is scheduled to open in 2015.
The tunnel will improve safety and relieve congestion for hundreds of thousands of Seattle-area drivers. “This project will not only provide immediate benefits by creating jobs, but it will support economic growth for decades to come,” said Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez. “Building this tunnel will ensure commuters continue to travel to and through Seattle safely, while putting our friends and neighbors to work,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “President Obama called on us to strengthen our infrastructure and create a foundation for economic growth, and that is what is happening today in Seattle.” Besides addressing the critical need for regional mobility and economic sustainability, the tunnel solution also has the significant benefit of reconnecting the surrounding community with the Seattle waterfront–much like the dismantling of the damaged Embarcadero freeway opened up San Francisco’s waterfront.
CONCUR worked on the project from 2007 to 2010, with its role focused on collaborative process design, strategic planning advice and stakeholder involvement. CONCUR was part of a team that helped build broad consensus for the deep-bore tunnel alternative that helped break a years-long impasse. Keys to the project included: (1) reframing the problem to focus on systems solutions, rather than just a short reach of highway; (2) creating a framework agreement for agencies to pool their problem-solving focus and increase decision making certainty; (3) structuring a dynamic alternatives analysis process that let stakeholders see evolving analysis; (4) reaffirming a solid decision by political leaders to support the bored tunnel solution; (5) creating strong incentives for joint commitments to timely implementation.
For other AWV replacement-related news, see the Washington State Department of Transportation website at: http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/projects/viaduct/