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SuperTunnel: Journey from Light to Light

SuperTunnel: Journey from Light to Light

Discover the complete story of the building of the Seattle State Route 99 tunnel, as told by project managers, planners, civic leaders, key contractors, labor unions, and crew members.

This 190-page full color hardcover publication covers a five-year period (2014-2019) of this engineering megaproject that broke records and defied odds in the underground tunneling industry. Photographed in all its phases, the book illustrates six work zones, events, and milestones. It celebrates “Bertha”, the largest tunnel boring machine in the world at the time, and the Alaskan Way Viaduct which the tunnel replaced.

From 100 feet in the air to 100 feet below ground, the book gives readers the grand tour of all facets involved in building the double deck, two-lane highway beneath the city, changing Seattle’s waterfront landscape forever.

The nearly two-mile underground tunnel drive followed a winding path along Seattle’s waterfront and Elliott Bay, passing under the Alaskan Way Viaduct and part of the city’s downtown business district, exiting here at the North Portal located adjacent to the Seattle Center and Space Needle.

The tunnel walls are made of pre-cast curved concrete segments, in a succession of rings. Each ring consists of nine large segments and one ‘key’ piece, bolted together. Once the tunnel structure was complete, the north and south interior road decks were constructed.

A worker emerges from the mouth of the tunnel in the launch zone located at the south end of the tunnel project, where the tunnel boring machine began her route under Seattle in 2013. Before the interior roadways were built, the tunnel was visible in its full diameter, at 57.5 feet, the largest tunnel in the world at the time. The launch zone later extended into the ‘cut and cover’ portion of the project which connected the tunnel to future exterior roads leading to the entrance and exit of the highway.

Hundreds of new cutter teeth glistened in the sun as the newly repaired 2,000-ton center drive unit of the tunnel boring machine was hoisted back into the Rescue Shaft parallel to the Alaskan Way Viaduct near Pier 47 in Seattle. Once underground, it was re-connected to the body of the machine and tested extensively in order to resume her journey northbound.

Crew members and managers raise their hats after the successful arrival and exit of ‘Bertha’ at the North Portal shaft site on April 14, 2017. Bertha, named after Seattle’s first female mayor, Bertha Landes, was the largest TBM ever built at the time measuring 57.5 feet in diameter—five stories high. The historic machine was not salvageable and was dismantled over the following four months. This area then became the site of the north ‘cut and cover’, and the highway’s entrance and exit near the Seattle Center and Space Needle.


Pub. Date: 2020
By: Catherine Bassetti, Author and Photographer
Format: Hardcover
# Pages: 190
  • List Price: $129.00
  • Member Price: $69.00

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SuperTunnel: Journey from Light to Light
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