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Seattle tunnel drilling on hold after barge lists, drifts into pier

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SEATTLE - A listing barge that spilled soil into Elliott Bay then drifted into a pier Tuesday morning is the latest malfunction to hit the Seattle tunnel project.

Tunneling is now on hold as crews deal with the problem.

Laura Newborn of the state Department of Transportation said the trouble began when one of the barges Seattle Tunnel Partners is using to haul away excavated material began to list or lean to one side as crews loaded it early Tuesday.

To prevent damage to the conveyor system, crews released the barge from its moorage at Terminal 46, and some excavated clean soils were spilled into Elliott Bay, Newborn said.

The barge then drifted into nearby Pier 48, which is owned by the state Department of Transportation and is slated for demolition.

Newborn said the barge has since been moved to the west end of Terminal 46, where crews are working to transfer the material on the barge to another barge.

Seattle Tunnel Partners is inspecting Terminal 46 and Pier 48 to determine if any damage occurred.

Tunnel excavation is temporarily on hold as the latest malfunction is addressed.

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The tunnel project, designed to replace the aging Alaskan Way Viaduct, is more than two years behind schedule after the Bertha tunneling machine broke down and needed extensive repairs.

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