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Seattle Tunnel Partners promises a wider roadway, one year sooner

An early concept of the proposed SR 99 bored tunnel, to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct.
Courtesy WSDOT
An early concept of the proposed SR 99 bored tunnel, to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct.

State transportation officials have announced the likely winner in the competition to build a tunnel to replace Seattle's aging Alaskan Way Viaduct.  The proposal comes from a consortium known as Seattle Tunnel Partners.  It has a slightly higher price, but offers other benefits.

Both proposals came in just under the $1.1 Billion dollar price limit set by the state.  The winning team, Seattle Tunnel Partners, set a price that's a fraction of a percent higher than the competition.  But the DOT's Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement Program Administrator, Ron Paananen, says they earned extra points in three main areas.  First, the size of the roadway.


"They proposed a larger tunnel. Our basic roadway had two eleven-foot lanes, a 2-foot shoulder and a 6-foot shoulder. They got us two more feet. They got an 8-foot shoulder for each direction of travel in the tunnel. That was a significant difference in the proposals," Paananen said.

They also promise to finish three months faster, in December 2015 – nearly a year ahead of the state's deadline.  And they plan to build a narrower roadway at the south end of the project, which Paananen says is a better urban design.   All told, the winners scored nearly twice as many technical credits. 

Both groups now have nine days to protest the state's evaluation of their bids.  The state will award the contract in January.

Meantime, a group of activists that includes the Sierra Club submitted a new anti-tunnel initiative and will soon begin circulating petitions.   Another group says they've already gathered 16,000 signatures in favor of keeping an elevated highway in place.

Bellamy Pailthorp covers the environment for KNKX with an emphasis on climate justice, human health and food sovereignty. She enjoys reporting about how we will power our future while maintaining healthy cultures and livable cities. Story tips can be sent to