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SR-99 tunnel accident injures four construction workers

Four workers were injured at the site of the SR-99 tunnel project, resulting in new concerns about safety for both workers and motorists.

Four workers suffered injuries in a February construction accident at the site of the State Route 99 replacement tunnel project, according to the Puget Sound Business Journal. The Seattle Fire Department reportedly had to pull the workers out after a section of the tunnel collapsed.

It was another setback for the $2 billion SR-99 tunnel project that will eventually replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct, which was built in 1953 and has been deemed unsafe because of earthquake hazards. However, progress on the planned two-mile tunnel underneath downtown Seattle has been slow, due largely to a malfunctioning boring machine (known as "Bertha") that is now stuck 1,000 feet below the surface.

Seattle Tunnel Partners, the project manager at the site, released a statement saying that the workers were attending to a concrete wall near the north end of the tunnel when some rebar gave way. This resulted in arm, neck and back injuries to the workers. A spokesperson from the Washington Department of Transportation said that the incident would not delay construction any further, however.

Potential hazards for motorists

Another issue with the SR-99 replacement tunnel project is the fact that the ground underneath the current Alaskan Way Viaduct and Pioneer Square downtown has settled about an inch since work began, resulting in some concerns about whether motorists are still safe driving on the highway. Officials with WSDOT have insisted that they are, but the city of Seattle has launched its own investigation and hired an engineering consultant for an independent review of the situation.

According to the Seattle Times, the study, which is now underway, will first involve an examination of state modeling of the viaduct and later go into greater detail on how the settling soil could impact the highway's stability. This move came about after city officials expressed their concerns related to a lack of clear information coming from WSDOT, including a failure to properly notify the city of a report from a state-hired engineering firm warning of a higher risk of failure in the pit STP is digging to access and repair the boring machine.

The Seattle DOT has also updated its emergency transportation plan in the event the viaduct must be closed due to safety concerns, as plans call for Bertha to pass directly below the existing highway once the machine is back up and running.

For now, it's unclear whether the tunnel replacement project is having a significant enough impact on soil settling to endanger the safety of those traveling on the Alaskan Way Viaduct or downtown surface streets. When injuries result following a construction site accident, those involved should consider seeking the counsel of a skilled personal injury attorney.

Keywords: construction, accident, worker, injury