Another delay for Seattle tunnel project after barge mishap

SEATTLE -- Just weeks after drilling resumed for the first time in more than two years, Seattle’s troubled tunnel project is on hold once again.

Workers at the site of the Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement Program are inspecting Pier 46 for damage after a barge carrying dirt dug from the tunnel began to list.

To prevent damage to the conveyor belt carrying dirt to the barge, workers cut the barge loose from its moorage, causing dirt to spill into Elliot Bay. From there, the barge floated into Pier 48 before it was retrieved by tug boats early Tuesday morning.

By Tuesday afternoon, divers and marine surveyors were busy inspecting Terminal 46 for damage.

“Crews are assessing what needs to be done to safely stage a barge at Terminal 46 for loading,” the Washington State Department of Transportation said in a statement.

WSDOT said tunneling is expect to resume after safety inspections are complete and a replacement barge returns to the site from offloading material in Port Ludlow.

The delay is the latest of many in the city’s troubled tunnel project. In December 2013, the tunnel boring machine – nicknamed Bertha – came to a halt after overheating underground. It took more than two years to reach the broken machine and make necessary repairs.

The project is now more than two years behind schedule, with the tunnel expected to open to traffic in the spring of 2018.