Viaduct for Dummies: Japanese firm gets the contract to build the bore

*Updated 10/14 with new information (below)

Japanese firm Hitatchi Zosen signed a contract today to build the behemouth boring machine that will blaze the trail for the waterfront tunnel. Read cool details about this sci-fi creation here; then picture what $80 million gets you. My fave highlights from the always-fascinating DOT press release:

  • The machine is 57.5 feet in diameter, about the size of a big ferry boat;
  • The thing will be barged to Seattle in pieces and then assembled in a pit in SoDo;
  • When it's operational (in mid-2013), there will be as many as 40 workers inside the thing, monitoring the process, maintaining the equipment, etc.

The tunnel is scheduled to open for drivers in late 2015. Wish Hitatchi had the contract on a time machine.

Update: A few readers wondered why a local company wasn't chosen to build the big bore, so I called Chad Shuster of the WSDOT. He says that while there are local companies that build boring machines, none have the capability to build a machine of this size; in fact, there are only a handful of companies in the world that can. The tunnel build team does include local firms Frank Coluccio Construction, Mowat Construction and HNTB Corp.