Thursday, March 19, 2015

Washington Street Boat Landing, The Seattle Seawall Project and Big Bertha Tunneling Machine

Washington Street Boat Landing, The Seattle Seawall Project and 
Big Bertha Tunneling Machine

I knew there was this little park on the Water Front that was adjacent to the Port of Seattle Container docks. I had some time one morning so I walked downtown and took a street down to the waterfront near the Ferry docks. I knew it would be just a short walk from there. For some reason though I was having trouble finding information about it on the internet before walking down there. As I found out all the construction along the water front in the area of the park caused the access to the park to be fenced in by the needs of the construction going on down there.

I found this picture on the Seattle Parks site:
I was unable to get into the Historic Park due to construction fencing. Later I found out where the Pergola went:

I was able to just get to the Seattle Water Taxi Docks and get a couple of pics across the dock to the park where the trees are.

I could not make out any shape of the pagoda pic above but I knew this had to be the Park, the only area with any trees.
I tried to find a back door in but there was always security in the area at each construction gate. There are two huge projects going on along this section of the waterfront and a lot of construction activity. One of the projects is the renewal of the Seattle Seawall along a significant portion of Alaskan Way in what is usually the highest concentration of tourist traffic and commuter traffic from the Washington State Ferry docks. The second project is a huge tunneling project to replace the old elevated Highway 99 Viaduct with a underground tunnel. The old Highway bridge is old and does not meet standards for earthquake or tsunami's.

I did not get to visit the Historic park and wondered if it would ever be re-opened to the public so I started checking out other things on the checklist. This is the Commuter Water Taxi dock to West Seattle and Vashon Island. I plan on taking the taxi some day just for fun so I at least got to preview where to board the vessel. It does not run in the middle of the day, just mornings and afternoons, so you have to really plan the trip to coincide with their departure and return times. 

The Taxi's resting till the afternoon commuter rush.

On the way by the Ferry dock I took time to take a couple of pics, the Kalakala has been on the evening news lately here. The Kalakala was recently taken to the bone yard and cut into pieces, the good pieces were put into a huge warehouse and auctioned off, everything sold in less than 2 hours. See The Kalakala was among a fleet of vessels bought by the State of Washington when the State Government went into the Ferry business in 1951.

Leschi was the first vessel in Puget sound to carry vehicles, mostly on Lake Washington 1913

Walking along the area of the Seawall replacement construction you cant help but notice the spaghetti of pipes running just inside the wall from the sidewalk. Hoses connected to pipes that are leading straight down about 2 feet apart the entire length of the construction along the wall. All the connections are frozen and the ice surrounding the connections stands out.  

Several of these refrigeration units are humming full speed along the way

I asked one of the hardhats about the pipes running deep underground. They have frozen the soils deep below the construction area to prevent seepage of water as they replace the old seawall with the new. It prevents water seeping underneath the Highway 99 elevated structure.

Since Highway 99 is just feet from the Seawall they are trying to prevent subsidence or sinking of the old highway that is still used by 10's of 1,000's of cars daily  The Highway has already sunk by 3/4 inch and nobody seems to know how far it can sink before it becomes unsafe for use.
Lots of drilling and replacement of pilings go on 24/7

Here is the latest update:

Several area business had to close for a year so they are taking advantage of the closure and remodeling as well.

The size and scope of the project is incredible, they say it is a one year deal but they got lucky with the warmest driest winter ever so they might be on target to meet their deadlines.These are called Z panels, see the video here:

The new wall is supposed to stand through earthquake and  tsunami for the next 75 years.

This has always been covered by sidewalk so you never really knew if you were walking over land or water. 

Project #2 is the Tunnel project underneath the elevated Hwy 99 viaduct that parallels the seawall just feet away which can be seen in this picture. The only thing that separates the two projects is some artificially frozen soil.

This is "Bertha" The Largest Tunneling machine in the world and the first time it has ever been used to dig a tunnel This is a must see video on this incredible piece of Japanese Engineering:

Bertha is in place and fired up for the first time to start boring the 2 mile long tunnel.

Bertha ran into what they thought was some old steel pipes left underground years ago. It stalled the boring for several days. They finally got her re-started and then the machine starting running hot. They diagnosed the problem as a bad main bearing. So they had to shut her down and figure out how to fix the problem. The decision was made to dig a huge access hole ahead of the machine and then raise the cutting head to the surface where they could install a new bearing.This is a picture taken just recently after Bertha emerged into the access pit. They are now going to start the disassembling process and bring the head to the surface for repairs. So far about a year long delay and who knows how much money in cost overruns? Great news story here: You can imagine the political fall out over such a delay for this project which is even further complicated by the fact that when they began to dig the access pit to remove the cutting head the elevated Hwy 99 began to sink. Old Even buildings in Pioneer Square which runs along side Hwy. 99 had some buildings sinking, walls cracking and other issues like water seeping in. One used book store had to re-locate due to water damage which cost the business $30,000 to find new digs. But this is why they must complete the project no matter what the cost:

The red structure was built to raise the extremely heavy cutting head to the surface.

On the bright side the Longshoreman have reached a agreement and in early March everything kicked back into gear at all the West Coast Ports but there is a huge backlog of ships to be unloaded. The containers are stacked in Mountains everywhere and the truck traffic to and from the port is pissing drivers off. But you will probably be able to set your stuff soon!

On both sides of 99 the containers are stacked everywhere.

Check out that fork lift!

That is the stern of a container ship, its one of the big ones that carry about 20,000 containers!

Just can't Contain it all!

The port should have the back log cleared up by the end of March.

Trucks backed up in all directions going in and out.

It was a great morning for a walk along the waterfront!
Seattle is a city on the move with not just the projects above but record growth in the city as all the tech companies are adding thousands to their workforce. Last Year an average of 180 persons were moving into the Seattle Metro area per day (Much like Austin, TX). The growing pains of accommodating such fast and big change is certainly apparent everywhere here. Life will be very different 5 years from now when all the buildings are full and these huge projects are complete. If any city can rise to the challenge it is Seattle with it's incredible techno work force to solve a whole new set of issues that will emerge very soon.

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