September 30, 2023


SEATTLE — Four men working on an elevator shaft were injured at the north end of the new State Route 99 tunnel under construction, according to Seattle Fire spokesman Kyle Moore.

The construction site is located at 301 Aurora Avenue North.

One man was admitted to Harborview’s intensive care unit in serious, but stable condition, according to spokeswoman Susan Gregg. The other three men were discharged after being evaluated by doctors.

None of the men suffered non-life threatening injuries, Gregg said.

The men arrived at Harborview just before 3pm. All four men complained of neck and back injuries, injuries consistent with this type of fall.

The four men are ages 23, 29, 31 and 36.

“The good news is they’re awake and alert and they’re talking. It doesn’t appear to be anything life threatening with any of the young men here,” Gregg said.

The men fell 25 feet when the wall of the elevator shaft collapsed as they were working.

“It was not easy to get in there,” Moore said.

The most seriously injured man had to be carried half a mile out of the construction area. He suffered a fractured arm.

The three other patients, who walked out, were put onto back boards as a precaution and also taken to Harborview.

Washington Labor and Industries was launching a formal investigation into the accident and would look into the job site’s history.

The Seattle Tunnel Partners and the Washington State Department of Transportation have made the point over and over that they want this project to be as safe as possible. Even with the project delays, both parties insist they won’t drive the project any faster than is safe.

The incident occurred at the north portal of the SR 99 tunnel project, that when finished, will replace the aging viaduct along the waterfront.


Work at the north portal has been independent from much of the rest of the project. Moore said the walls of the tunnel were not impacted in the incident.

An operations building will eventually rise above ground level at the north end. It will include everything that WSDOT needs to ventilate and maintain that tunnel.

They are building elevator shafts to be able to start the construction of the building. The actual construction of the building won’t take place until after Bertha finishes digging the tunnel.

An 80 foot deep pit is waiting for Bertha at the north end of the project, where the boring machine will be dismantled and removed.

Currently, Bertha, the world’s largest tunnel boring machine, remains stopped about 1,000 feet into the job. Repairs are needed before Bertha can run again.

Most recently, workers constructed a cradle in the access pit dug to reach Bertha. The next step involves Bertha tunneling through the walls of the pit before its face is removed and brought to the surface for repairs.

Statement from Seattle Tunnel Partners:

This afternoon, five workers were installing rebar for a concrete wall at the tunnel’s north portal work zone. The wall of rebar gave way, injuring four of the five workers. The injured workers were transported to Harborview Medical Center for evaluation. Emergency procedures were followed throughout the incident. Seattle Tunnel Partners is thankful for the Seattle Fire Department’s assistance in evacuating the injured workers to Harborview.

Statement from WSDOT:

We are still gathering information, but Seattle Tunnel Partners has informed us that an incident has occurred on the SR 99 Tunnel Project job site in the north portal area. Safety is STP’s and WSDOT’s number one priority. Right now, their field crews are focusing on making sure the site is secured. Emergency services were notified immediately and arrived on site after the incident.

We will provide additional information as it becomes available.

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