Ship Canal Water Quality Project update 3/16/2023

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Getting creative to train for tunnel rescue scenarios

Seattle Fire Department hosts a training exercise at the Ballard and Fremont shaft site.

Seattle Fire Department hosts a training exercise at the Ballard shaft site (left) and Fremont shaft site (right) to train crews and work through emergency scenarios.

Tunneling work is amazing and fascinating to watch, but like any construction work, it can be dangerous. To minimize safety risks on the Ship Canal Water Quality Project, Seattle Public Utilities partnered with the Seattle Fire Department to carry out rescue training in our tunnels.

Captain Brian Boulay from the Seattle Fire Department (SFD) leads a special team of firefighters trained in tunnel rescue. “Whether it’s the Ship Canal tunnel or the SR 99 tunnel, tunnels are a fact of life in Seattle now,” says Captain Boulay. At any given moment, SFD has at least ten firefighters on-call who are trained in tunnel rescue.

SPU and SFD partnered on the Ship Canal Water Quality Project because of mutual needs: SPU needs to ensure the safety of construction crews and SFD needs practice opportunities for their tunnel rescue program. “The [18-foot diameter] Ship Canal tunnel is very different from tunnels like SR 99, which has many different access points” says Captain Boulay. “The tightness, one rail track, and single exit point in the Ship Canal tunnel is a unique opportunity for us to practice and brainstorm ways to make our emergency response faster.” Captain Boulay’s team speeds up their emergency response times in the tunnel by staging rescue equipment closer to MudHoney, our 18-foot diameter tunnel boring machine (TBM), so crews don’t have to carry equipment all the way to the TBM from the Ballard shaft site.

Tunnel rescue training is physically and psychologically difficult. “One of the things we’ve incorporated recently is mental performance training. You see, the knowledge that firefighters are the final response to an emergency is already mentally and emotionally taxing.” Boulay explains that all firefighters working in tunnels use long-range breathing apparatuses. Unlike the usual gas and smoke masks, long-range breathing apparatuses give firefighters four hours of reliable oxygen by recycling air and filtering out the carbon dioxide. The downside? The long-range equipment raises body temperature and alters the wearer’s breathing cadence. “We’ve done classes on managing the body’s stress responses, and we’ve had great success with those classes so far” says Boulay.

Boulay is not daunted by the physical logistics and psychological hurdles SFD must clear to pull off successful tunnel rescues. “It’s a fascinating time of discovery in the emergency services right now. It’s a good time to take stock of new situations so we can be prepared for them if they arise.”

To learn more about the project, visit our project website. We also continue to update our Flickr albums with construction photos, including photos of SFD tunnel rescue drills.

MudHoney graphic


Our 18-ft diameter TBM has tunneled over 11,200 feet! Follow along with our tunneling tracker on our project website.

Ground monitoring is ongoing along the tunnel alignment and is done from both inside MudHoney and on the surface.


Our Ballard shaft site near Shilshole Ave NW will continue to be busy with tunneling activities until MudHoney reaches Wallingford this year.

During regular tunneling activities, you should anticipate:

  • Truck deliveries of concrete segments and MudHoney equipment
  • Nighttime segment deliveries and both nighttime/daytime tunnel spoils being hauled off
  • Noise and vibrations typical of a construction site

Crews are working 24 hours a day, six days a week.

To the best of our knowledge, Puget Sound Energy (PSE) has completed utility relocation work along NW 56th St. Please contact Eric Liaw at if you have any questions.

East Ballard

Crews continue building the mechanical and electrical vault on NW 45th St, including installation of equipment inside the vault and piping around the outside, as well as constructing the diversion structure walls on 11th Ave NW. Crews are also constructing a horizontal tunnel at the bottom of the drop shaft to connect the conveyance pipe that will extend from the diversion structure to the storage tunnel.

Local closures and detours:

  • There continues to be a one-lane traffic configuration on 11th Ave NW at NW 45th St. Traffic signals and flaggers will direct traffic at the intersection during single lane closures.
  • NW 45th St remains closed to traffic between 11th Ave NW and 9th Ave NW; vehicles must detour onto NW 46th St
  • Burke-Gilman Trail remains detoured to the north side of NW 45th St through the project area. For safety, bicyclists should either dismount or cross train tracks at a 90-degree angle. Please use extra caution in wet weather as ramps may be slippery.

You should anticipate:

  • Heavy equipment in the area
  • Noise and vibrations typical of a construction site

Regular work hours will be Monday through Friday, from 7 am to 5 pm. Night and weekend work may occur.


Our 8-ft diameter conveyance tunnel boring machine made it to Queen Anne! Crews havebackfilled around the diversion structure on 2nd Ave NW.

Local closures and detours:

  • On March 6, our contractor closed two lanes on Leary Way NW, between NW 39th St and 1st Ave NW, to install utility connections from the road surface down to the 18-foot diameter tunnel. Lane closures will continue to be in place around the clock. Our contractor will always keep one lane open in each direction and lanes will be re-opened as soon as possible. We expect all lanes of Leary Way NW to be reopened by the end of April.
  • On 2nd Ave NW, between Leary Way NW and NW Canal St, the street remains closed to vehicle and pedestrian traffic through mid-2023. NW Canal St is open to two-way traffic to allow access during this closure.
  • NW 36th St, between Leary Way NW and 3rd Ave NW, is closed through 2023
  • Pedestrian detours are in place on Leary Way NW; please follow all detour guidance

You should anticipate:

  • Truck traffic on Leary Way NW as trucks bring materials and equipment to and from the site
  • Fans running during work hours to provide fresh air to crews working in the shaft

Regular work hours will be Monday through Friday, from 7 am to 6 pm; and some Saturdays from 9 am to 6 pm.


Crews constructed the electrical building footing at the Wallingford shaft site on Interlake Ave N and N 35th St.

On February 6, Wallingford Conveyance project crews mobilized onto Stone Way N, between N 34th St and N 35th St, and on the north half of N 34th St for conveyance pipe installation, diversion structure construction, and other utility work. We have reached out to nearby neighbors and businesses and will continue to share more details about this work. Currently, crews are working on installing a temporary sewer bypass pipe down the center of Stone Way N.

Vehicle detour:

  • Stone Way N, between N 34th St and N 35th St, is closed to vehicles
  • Improvements are being made at the all-way-stop traffic revision at the intersection of N 35th St and Woodland Park Ave N
  • Westbound N 34th St is closed to through traffic between Wallingford Ave N and Woodland Park Ave N
  • Local access to Densmore Ave N, Woodlawn Ave N, private driveways, businesses, and to the North Transfer Station from N 34th St will continue to be maintained. Local Access Only signs were added at both N 34th St and N 35th St (for each way) to discourage through-traffic.
  • Westbound traffic on N Pacific St/N 34th St can access the detour route at Wallingford Ave N
  • Left turns are not permitted at the intersection of N 34th St where N Northlake Way turns into Stone Way N
  • Local Access Only signs will be added for continuing west on N Northlake Way
  • Westbound traffic further east on N Northlake Way can access the detour route using the N 36th St cutoff or Densmore Ave N
  • Please adhere to the Road Closed and Traffic Revision Ahead signage and follow the detour route signs

Bicycle detour update: No bike lane through one block project area

Please use the bike detour route on N 35th St and on Woodland Park Ave N. Please dismount and walk if you use the sidewalk.

You should anticipate:

  • Trucks coming in and out of the site
  • Noise and vibrations typical of a construction site

Regular work hours will be Monday through Friday, from 7 am to 5:30 pm.

Queen Anne

Our 8-ft diameter conveyance tunnel boring machine made it to Queen Anne! Crews will continue working on the diversion structure and installing piping and an air duct inside the tunnel casing.

Local closures and detours:

  • Localized Ship Canal Trail detour at least through summer 2023 (see map). Please continue to remain alert when moving through this area.
  • West Ewing Mini Park parking closure through mid-2023

You should anticipate:

  • Trucks coming in and out of the site
  • Noise and vibrations typical of a construction site

Regular work hours will be Monday through Friday, from 7 am to 5 pm. Night and weekend work may occur.

Contact Us

Please email with questions or comments or call our hotline at (206) 701-0233. You can also find information online at To support the community during active tunneling, we have changed our hotline hours to 24 hours a day, Monday through Friday.

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