With construction on the Alaskan Way tunnel just months away, the Washington Department of Transportation said Friday it still has not bought all of the land rights beneath downtown Seattle for the project.
Fifty-eight buildings are directly above the future tunnel, and the state only has deals with 38 of them to use ground below. Construction cannot begin without agreements in place.
“We think we’re right where we need to be,” said WSDOT Chief Engineer David Sowers. “We’re not quite done, but we have a couple more months to go.”
Of the 13 properties unfinished, Sowers said all but four are completed and simply not finalized. Two of those are still in negotiations over price and other issues. The state budgeted $186 million for land purchasing.
“It’s not rare to be in this situation,” Sowers continued. “We certainly would like to have had the right-of-way sooner. The goal is to have it ready before we start tunneling and we will have it.”
However, buying underground land is not the only pre-construction detail that has to be completed.
Seattle Tunnel Partners, which is handling the project, has to finish a Tunnel Action Plan before the dig begins. The plan provides a blueprint to building owners above the work on what would happen if too much ground is disturbed.
State and local historians in particular said they have been waiting to see the document to ensure old buildings are not damaged, and if they are, get adequately repaired.
Sowers said the plan should be complete in a few weeks.
“It’s not something that has to be done today or tomorrow,” Sowers commented.