Massive tunnel-boring machine arrives for light rail construction duty

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Sound Transit Board Chair and Pierce County Executive John Ladenburg met with reporters today to mark the arrival of a 360-ton tunnel-boring machine, an exciting moment in the construction of the Central Link light rail project.

Once assembled, the state-of-the-art tunnel-boring machine (TBM) will extend about the length of a football field. It will be used to build the nearly mile-long Beacon Hill tunnel that will carry light rail trains between Seattle's SODO area and the Rainier Valley.

Construction of the Central Link light rail system continues to move forward rapidly. Construction bids came in 6 percent below estimates, and Sound Transit remains on schedule to begin carrying passengers starting in mid-2009.

The TBM will be assembled from more than 30 truckloads of components that Sound Transit light rail contractor Obayashi Corporation will transport to the west portal of the tunnel, located beneath I-5 near the Tully's Coffee roasting plant in SODO. The machine was built for Obayashi by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in Kobe, Japan and was transported to Seattle aboard the M/V BBC Bulgaria.

Sound Transit and Obayashi Corporation are holding a "Name the TBM" contest that is open to kids 12 and under who live in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties. The winner will receive a fun prize and will be invited to attend the tunnel boring machine's launch in October. Entries can be sent to through July 29 to Name the Tunnel-Boring Machine Contest, Sound Transit, 401 S. Jackson St., Seattle, WA 98104. Entrants should include their names, addresses, phone numbers, ages, and schools. Entries can also be submitted on the contest page of Sound Transit's web site.

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Sound Transit plans, builds and operates regional transit systems and services to improve mobility for Central Puget Sound.