The city shut down part of King Street tonight while WSDOT tried to figure out if Bertha is causing cracks in the street.
  • Heidi Groover
  • The city shut down part of King Street tonight while WSDOT tried to figure out if Bertha is causing cracks in the street.

The city temporarily shut down South King Street at its intersection with First Avenue tonight as the Washington State Department of Transportation, the Seattle Department of Transportation, and Seattle Tunnel Partners (the group building the troubled tunnel project meant to replace the equally troubled Alaskan Way Viaduct) tried to figure out whether recently discovered sinking in the area was causing damage to the street.

"It has been brought to our attention that there is a crack in King Street that may develop into a hole near the intersection of First Avenue," Washington State Department of Transportation administrator Todd Trepanier told the mayor and city council in an email this afternoon.

Here's the crack from the air via KING 5:

But the block of King in question is scarred with several big cracks, and no one seems quite sure how much they're related to the new sinking (which is thought to have been caused by the ongoing effort to repair the stalled boring machine, Bertha). WSDOT spokesperson Laura Newborn told me on the scene, “If you look at a 2011 Google map you’ll see the [same] cracks.” Because apparently that’s how our state officials are keeping track of road conditions.

“We don’t have enough data to tell you if certain things are related to the activities where the boring machine is or whether they’re related to a very old neighborhood,” Mayor Ed Murray said at the scene, adding later, “Some property owners [in Pioneer Square] are reporting no damage and others are reporting some damage. … We don’t have any data to indicate any of these buildings are at risk.”

This all started, Newborn says, when a “concerned neighbor” watching the rainwater pool on this portion of the street this afternoon called WSDOT and said, “the road didn’t look the same as it had.”

“People are especially sensitive about what’s going on given the news of the week,” Newborn says, so WSDOT came to check it out.

But neither Newborn nor the mayor’s office nor anyone I talked to on the scene from SDOT or Seattle Tunnel Partners could tell me when or how they would know if any of the cracks are new and caused by the recently discovered settlement.

“Everyone is asking the same question,” says Murray spokesperson Jason Kelly.

WSDOT’s Newborn explained that Seattle Tunnel Partners crew members dragging orange box-shaped devices along the road were using “ground-penetrating radar” to find holes underneath the surface of the street to determine whether there’s any damage in the area.

Meanwhile, Kelly says SDOT is inspecting all the streets in the area to figure out “when the damage may have occurred. No conclusions were reached today.”