Every year brings with it a set of stories that dominate the headlines month after month. The world of construction doesn’t differ. Let’s walk through seven of the lasting stories of 2017, some all wrapped up and some with more to tell in 2018.
Gone. Bertha is gone. It may have come as a surprise to those who only watched the early years of the 57.5-ft-diameter tunnel-boring machine attempt a 1.7-mile tunnel under downtown Seattle, but the machine wrapped up its tunnel project in 2017. The 8,000-ton, five-story machine then went through a complete dismantling, opening up the construction of the double-decker roadway inside the tunnel. Expect to see the Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement tunnel make news in 2018, as it moves toward opening to traffic in 2019. But Bertha? Bertha’s gone.
The stories kept coming fast and furious from the Hanford Nuclear Waste Site in southeast Washington. From contamination risks to dismantled buildings and completed projects to progress on the Vitrification Plant, one of the most complicated technical buildings ever constructed. A roof collapsed over a contaminated tunnel at a PUREX facility, crews finished off final dismantling and clearing of the Plutonium Finishing Plant and progress moved forward on a phased opening of the Vit Plant. As has been the case for years, expect more excitement from Hanford in 2018.
The year 2017 shouldn’t have had any major projects slated for the Multnomah County-owned Morrison Bridge in Portland, but the 1958-built bascule bridge spanning the Willamette River received a much-needed repair to its roadway this year, a completely new lift span deck. The original open steel grate deck that had lasted 50 years, but proved dangerously slick in the often-wet weather of the Pacific Northwest, received an overhaul in 2011. The county then installed a fiber-reinforced polymer deck to replace the steel, limited in choice during the design phase as engineers needed to keep the lift span deck weight in balance with the two 1.9 million-pound concrete counterweights that help operate the movable bridge, the largest mechanical device in Oregon. But the deck failed and 2017 brought with it a new fix for the Morrison Bridge, one that should keep it out of the news in 2018.
Early in 2017 work started to replace the Massey Tunnel south of Vancouver, B.C., with a 10-lane bridge. But the multi-billion-project took a political hit with a new government in British Columbia coming in and scrapping the entire project, leaving the fate of the transportation corridor in question. With politics playing as large a role as anything in the future of Highway 99, nobody knows what to expect with the next bit of Massey news.
Portland, Seattle Stadiums and Arenas
Portland’s historic Providence Park made quick work of plans in order to start construction on a completely new addition to the downtown stadium, set for final completion in 2019. Adding about 4,000 seats to the east side of the 1926-opened venue will create a fresh perspective for the stadium and downtown in the form of a highly vertical design that creates an arcade below. And Seattle won’t be outdone, as agreements were reached to overhaul Key Arena in Seattle Center. With both projects in the early stages, stadiums and arenas in the Pacific Northwest have plenty of news ahead of them.
Sound Transit Expansion
Sound Transit continues it movement north. And south. And now east. As the organization continues its expansion in the Puget Sound, plans came together in 2017 for a Tacoma Link extension that will kick off in 2018, even as the Northgate Link draws closer to completion. Movement east took a major step forward in 2017 with the completion of engineering that will allow the building of rail on the Interstate 90 floating bridge.
A complicated fix for the four Rall wheels on Portland’s Broadway Bridge, one of the few remaining lift bridges in the world using the Rall design, provided an intriguing project in the City of Roses. The 1913 bridge had undergone many fixes, but never had the 1,742-ft-long bridge received new wheels, which required a complete re-engineering. The steel wheels were forged to create a modern design that matched a historic use.
Follow Tim Newcomb on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.