Earlier today I did a walking tour of the Battery Street Tunnel which was closed for inspection and cleaning. I "ran" through the tunnel back in the late 1970s as part of the Seafair Torchlight Run (when I could run!), but today was the first time I had a personal tour. It's bigger when you're standing on the pavement and not just whisking through in a car.
The Battery Street Tunnel, built in the mid-1950s, will likely be closed when the new deep-bore tunnel replacing the Alaskan Way Viaduct is opened in 2015 or 2016. Inside the northbound lanes we watched as a sewer-rat video camera broadcast images from deep inside the storm drainage system running under the tunnel. The video camera is mounted on a husky little platform with four large rubber tires; it reminded me of one of the police department's bomb detection mobile cameras. The camera "vehicle" is lowered into the sewer by a technician who then "drives" it through the sewer, remotely controlling its speed and camera angle.
At the north portal of the northbound lanes, crews were drilling deep soil bores, some as deep as 170 feet, to collect soil samples for testing and evaluation. The north portal of the new deep-bore tunnel will be in this general area and soil sampling is an important part of the engineering work required for tunnel design. In the above photo, I'm watching as a technician transfers some of the soil sample to a small jar for additional testing. The whole operation seemed like a crime scene forensic exercise; collect the evidence, package it for transmission to the lab, wait for the results.
In the southbound tunnel we watched as the walls were cleaned with a giant, truck-mounted brush, then sprayed with a cleansing solution. Last night, the fire suppression system was tested. The sprinklers in the tunnel are designed to release a deluge of water if there is a fire. We also tested the emergency phones positioned at several points in the tunnel; I picked up one handset and the police 911 center answered in seconds.
As we stood at the north end of the tunnel, I tried to visualize what it will be like in a few years to drive into a new tunnel that will stretch all the way south of the stadiums and how I would use the three streets that will be opened across Aurora just to the north (John, Thomas, and Harrison), a transformation that will reconnect lower Queen Anne with the south Lake Union area. Once completed, the Mercer Corridor and the Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement projects will revolutionize how we move between these neighborhoods. After 40+ years of congestion, confusion, delay, and debate, we are finally on the verge of good solutions. It's about time!