December 06, 2014
"Happy Bertha-day"
Transportation News
by Jim Miller, 08:35 AM

The Seattle tunneling machine has been stuck for one year, and now the date for its return to service has been postponed, again.

At the one-year anniversary of the stalling of tunnel boring under Seattle, new problems have emerged in the form of about 1.2 inches of ground subsidence at the site.

Over the weekend, state transportation crews will be inspecting and ground and several spans of the Alaska Way Viaduct to determine the cause and extent of the sinking.  It was detected after the Thanksgiving holiday.

Postponed by just one month, from March to April, a slip that will not reassure those familiar with large projects.  (In such projects, a small slip is often a harbinger of more small slips, and perhaps a large slip, yet to come.)

Some will find this postponement ironic, since the tunnel is intended to replace the Viaduct, because the Viaduct might collapse during an earthquake.  Now, the tunneling may be endangering the Viaduct.

This series of failures, if not exactly predictable, should not surprise anyone, for two reasons: First, as the largest tunneling machine ever built, Bertha is a prototype, and prototypes often require re-design, or at least some minor fixes.  Second, the Washington State Department of Transportation, which is supervising the project, has been in charge of a whole series of disasters, enough to make almost anyone conclude that either the department is exceptionally unlucky, or it is not as competent as it ought to be.

It won't happen, but, as I have said before, we really ought to rename the machine after the person responsible for this disaster, former governor Christine Gregoire.

Cross posted at Jim Miller on Politics.

(The title was shamelessly stolen from this Crosscut article, where you will find some interesting background, and an odd historical parallel.

For the record:  I have always been dubious about this project, because of its expense, the technological and managerial risks, and the failure to increase the capacity of the route, in an area plagued by clogged roads.  A better solution — perhaps even now — would be to refit the Viaduct in the next year or two, and look hard at replacing it with more capacity on I-5 in the next decade or two.)


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November 30, 2014
This Song Goes Out To Marissa Johnson And The Other Westlake Mall Protesters
[un]Sound Activists News
by Jim Miller, 02:59 PM

Which song?

The obvious song, which you can read here, or hear here.

Cross posted at Jim Miller on Politics.

(Here's the best video I found of the protests, though they don't show the children's choral group that was forced to cancel because of the protests.)


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