- The Washington Department of Transportation (WSDOT) revealed details for the $2.2 billion Alaskan Way (SR 99) tunnel's smart features, which will help keep drivers safe and traffic moving, according to GeekWire.
- The Seattle tunnel will be equipped with a 300-plus camera incident-detection system to monitor traffic and other tunnel activity 24/7, and automatic ventilation systems to ensure air quality. It also will include an automatic sprinkler system. All in all, the two-mile tunnel boasts 95 miles of electrical wiring; 21 miles of sprinkler pipes; 15 miles of lights; 13 miles of fiber optic cable and eight miles of linear heat detectors.
- According to WSDOT, thousands of tunnel components will be tested at least three times – individually, as a system and as part of a system that will be integrated with other systems. Final construction is wrapping up, and the department expects the first vehicles through the tunnel as early as this fall.
Tunnel crews have made excellent progress since the Alaskan Way Viaduct project was halted for more than two years due to a breakdown of the tunnel boring machine (TBM) called Bertha and a subsequent, brief stoppage in January of last year because of top-side conditions. The TBM completed work last April, 29 months after the original schedule.
Despite the risks and expense, tunnels take traffic off congested surface streets and through a speedier path underground. The New York State Department of Transportation commissioned a $2 million study to determine the feasibility and cost of a tunnel through downtown Syracuse. In December, WSP/Parsons Brinckerhoff reported that they had four tunnel options ranging in price from $3 billion to $4.5 billion. The mayor of Syracuse has advocated for a $1.3 billion surface street redevelopment instead.
Tesla founder Elon Musk has taken the concept of transportation tunnels in another direction. He claims his new venture, The Boring Company, will use new technology to tunnel faster, and Musk is putting that assertion to the test. Conventional wisdom was that he would jump right to tunneling for hyperloop systems, but his focus seems to be on a system of high-speed sleds that would transport small buses and/or vehicles.
This is the system that Musk is expected to propose for express transit rail service between downtown Chicago and O'Hare International Airport. Chicago officials announced earlier this month that The Boring Company was one of two finalists chosen to submit proposals for the project.