Long live the cranes. And the bridges. And even the new tunnel. Take a look at five of the larger stories to watch in Washington and Oregon in 2019:
The Tunnel Opens
Just the second month into 2019, the $3.3-billion project to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct will celebrate the opening of the 2-mile-long bored tunnel under downtown Seattle. The project had its own level of success in 2018 with the finishing of the tunnel. Bertha, the largest-dia boring machine to push through a tunnel in North America, wrapped up its work in 2017, leading to the building of the roadway and tunnel systems in 2018. One of the most technologically advanced tunnels in the world opens in early 2019. The public will see just how well it performs, gauge its level of popularity with the driving masses and then watch the final step in this process: the removal of the seismically vulnerable viaduct.
Crane City, U.S.A.
Both Seattle and Portland have experienced a massive crane-led construction boom of late. Seattle ranked at the top of U.S. cities with active construction cranes throughout 2018 and Portland slid into the top-four position at times, especially later in the year. Seattle and Portland had an assortment of mixed-use, office and residential projects ongoing. Will the construction boom continue in the Pacific Northwest? How will the new construction impact the makeup of the downtown cores of the two cities and will it lead to additional projects, whether building or transportation?
The Sound Transit Explosion
The fastest-growing light rail system in the country, Sound Transit is in the midst of a $14-billion expansion that will extend the regional light rail system to 116 miles by 2041. A system that opened in just 2009 has enjoyed success in many directions, running over bridges and through successful tunneling projects. As Sound Transit continues the massive expansion, how will its construction projects fare?
The City of Roses is also the City of Bridges. With spans connecting Portland across the Willamette River in downtown, Portland has a variety of historic and modern bridges. Some of those historic bridges, though, offer future question marks. Even with ongoing maintenance of such spans as the Hawthorne Bridge, major seismic fixes are in store for the Burnside Bridge. Multnomah County should make major decisions in 2019 about the future of the Burnside Bridge. Then comes the Steel Bridge, which Tri-Met has already started a discussion about its future viability as a transit route during ongoing growth. The next year should see movement on planning for the future of bridges over the Willamette and may even see further discussion of a revived new bridge discussion over the Columbia River, connecting Portland and Vancouver, Washington.
Radioactive Waste into Glass
No single project looms larger in Washington or Oregon than the effort to turn the radioactive leftovers at the Hanford Nuclear Waste site in southeast Washington into vitrified glass for long-term safe storage as part of the Hanford Vit Plant. As the U.S. Dept. of Energy and Bechtel continue the slow-moving $16.8-billion project to turn the radioactive waste into a safe solution, the multibuilding project includes some of the most high-tech scientific processes of any building in the country and a number of different projects—and structures—require completion to make the entire process run smoothly. Bechtel recently reported progress on the project, so watch for additional news in 2019 to give us the direction on the success of the Vit Plant.
Follow Tim Newcomb on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.