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Tunnel Watch List aims to highlight benefits of tunnels

Simply stated, modern society could not exist as we know it without the many benefits that come from the tunnels beneath our feet. However, for many people their only exposure is to the transportation tunnels in the world’s most densely populated areas and many people are unaware of other benefits, like providing freshwater or for the storage of wastewater for treatment.

These many benefits of tunnels are well known to members of the Underground Construction Association (UCA) a Division of SME and this year the Division formed a committee to create the inaugural Tunnel Watch List, a list of some of the most important tunneling and underground construction projects in the United States with a goal of shining a light on the positive impact these projects bring the general public.

The projects on the list cover the entire United States – from the east coast such as the MBTA Red Line Blue Line Connectors in to the Ala Moana tunnel in Honolulu, HI and LA Westside Purple Line Extension in Los Angeles, CA. The 20 projects include well-known multi-billion dollar transportation projects that will eventually carry millions of people underground as well as combined overflow sewage projects that very few people will ever see in the inside of.

“Each project has its own unique benefits, these vary in type from economic, to job creation, improved mobility, reliability/resilience, improved efficiency and environmental benefits,” said Mike Rispin of Strata Worldwide and UCA chair and member of the selection committee. “The projects provide everything from providing safer water supply and sewage disposal systems, cleaner rivers, to inter-state rail and road links and transit systems that are safe and do not interfere with surface activities.”

Rispin is joined on the committee by Robert Goodfellow, Aldea Services Inc.; Grover Vargas, Sika Corp.; Jonathan Klug, David R. Klug and Associates; Michael Vitale, Mott MacDonald; Mark Johnson, Jacobs; Michael Roach, Traylor Bros. Inc.; Jim Rush, Benjamin Media and Erika Moonin, Moonin and Associates. The committee, which has combined professional tunneling experience of more than 275 years, considered a number of factors when picking projects for the list including cumulative benefits of the project both regionally and nationally with an emphasis on societal and environmental benefits and not just economic benefits. Geography was a factor as well as the need to help promote projects that may need funding or are particularly important to their local community, or any other reason to justify why the public needs to be aware of the need for this infrastructure.

A pass/fail criteria was used to prioritize projects that have passed the initial concept design hurdle and are at least into preliminary engineering, the committee said.

The overall goal of the project is raise awareness of the importance of tunnels to the United States.

“For every pair of eyes it reaches, it raises awareness,” said Vargas. “That’s our most significant challenge with the public – what we’ve done, what we are doing, what we need to do … and the benefits these all have provided or will provide to society. Depending on the public’s infrastructure needs, there is always an answer that the tunneling industry can provide, since there is no one-size-fits-all solution.”

“Far too often the benefits of tunnel remain out of view and out mind. It is very important for the public to understand that tunneling has been and still is a critical enabling technology for some of the most important infrastructure projects in history,” said Goodfellow.

Tunnel City State
Ala Moana, Honolulu, HI, Wastewater
Ballard to West Seattle, Seattle, WA, Railroad
Banks Lake Pumped Storage Project, Grand Coulee, WA, Energy
Delta Conveyance, Sacramento, CA, Water
Detroit-Windsor, Detroit, MI, Railroad
Floyd Hill Tunnel – I70, Denver, CO, Highway
Ft. Lauderdale Connector, Ft. Lauderdale, FL, Transit
Harlem River Drive Ramp, New York, NY, Highway
Houston Flood Control Tunnels, Houston, TX, Water
Howard Street Tunnel, Baltimore,  MD, Freight rail
I-35 Capital Express Tunnel Project, Austin, TX, Highway
LA Westside Purple Line Extension – Phase 4, Los Angeles, CA, Transit
MBTA Red Line Blue Line Connector, Boston, MA, Transit
NEC – Northeast Corridor, Philadelphia, PA, Railroad
Northeast Maglev Project Phase 1, DC to Baltimore, MD, Railroad
Railyard Alternatives and I-280 Boulevard, San Francisco, CA, Transit
Sepulveda Pass, Los Angeles, CA, Transit
Steel Bridge Replacement Tunnel (Tri-met Tunnel), Portland, OR, Transit
Vermont Transit Corridor, Los Angeles, CA, Transit




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