The Seattle Times (hat tip to ASCE SmartBrief) has reported that seven voids have been discovered above the Beacon Hill Tunnel with one opening up at the ground surface. The tunnel is being constructed by Sound Transit, the area’s transportation agency as part of a roughly $2.6 billion (yep, billion) light-rail project connecting downtown Seattle with the University of Washington and SEA-TAC airport. The voids were a result of running sand pockets in the otherwise stable clay units that were encountered by the tunnel boring machine or TBM. These voids migrated up like a chimney with one reaching the surface, almost 160-ft above the tunnel. This void was apparently 21-ft deep and opened up in a resident’s front yard and could have easily swallowed her up as she noticed it while gardening. The other voids were discovered at a depth of 20- to 65-ft below the ground surface. More after the break. (Illustration from Seattle Times)
WSDOT released an update on February 7 with some conclusions regarding the blockage that has stopped the Alaska Way Viaduct Tunnel Boring Machine, Bertha’s progress since December 6. Now they don’t think it was necessarily the well casing after all.
They cite two factors that contributed to the blockage. First, the cutterhead was clogged with material. You can see an cool short video of a worker unclogging the cutterhead. Not terribly dramatic, but still cool. The second factor was increased temperatures inside the equipment. STP discovered damage to a seal that protects the machine’s main bearing. They are still determining how the repairs will be done.
If you want to follow the chronology of this issue, read below for summaries and links to previous updates from WSDOT. And Check out the videos too! [Source: WSDOT]