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Growing crack closes Pioneer Square street near Bertha

A large crack discovered on a Pioneer Square street possibly tied to the Seattle tunnel project prompted a temporary closure as officials scrambled to respond Thursday afternoon.

The Seattle Department of Transportation and Washington State Department of Transportation sent crews to inspect the crack that appeared to be growing on King Street near 1st Ave. S., prompting Mayor Ed Murray and other leaders to gather for a hastily called news conference.

The Washington State Department of Transportation reported earlier this week ground settling has been occurring around the area directly above where WSDOT and Seattle Tunnel Partners have been pumping groundwater to facilitate repairs of Bertha, the stalled tunnel machine.

A new map detailing the extent of the settlement shows the crack is just above the epicenter of the settling.

“We don’t have enough data to tell you if certain things are related to activities near the boring machine or if they’re because it’s an old neighborhood,” Murray said.

Murray pointed out there is no evidence definitively linking the drilling project to recent cracking discovered in the street and nearby buildings, and said officials will continue inspections and working with WSDOT to determine whether there’s any connection.

“So when we’re in this part of the city, I would be asking, what has the building done to prepare for an earthquake before I would ask what’s happening related to water that was pumped out of the ground,” he said.

While the city did close the street temporarily Thursday, Murray said there’s no indication the city needs to start shutting down others.

“We’re inspecting the infrastructure, we’re collecting data. As that data becomes available, if the situation changes, we’ll let you know and make decisions.”

A WSDOT spokeswoman says the crack has been there since 2011, but a woman living nearby reported Thursday afternoon it appears to have grown.

WSDOT expects to have results of a survey done by “ground penetrating radar” by Friday.

Correction: An earlier version of this report erroneously suggested that Mayor Murray said there was indication the city needed to start shutting down other streets.

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