Seattle’s famous boring machine MudHoney finishes its job

But the work isn’t over yet.

A view of MudHoney, a giant steel boring machine that emerged into a concrete shaft in Seattle, WA

MudHoney emerged from its two-year journey a lot grayer than when it started.

Photo by SEAtoday staff

Rock on, MudHoney. Yes, we’re applauding the massive boring machine named after the local grunge band that rock n’ rolled its way through 2.7 miles of dirt from Ballard to Wallingford.

MudHoney’s long, two-year tour just ended this week at N. 35th Street and Interlake Avenue. And, boy, it deserves a break.

The drill created a giant, underground tunnel for the Ship Canal Water Quality Project that will store + help reroute millions of gallons of overflow from storm surges, keeping it out of local waterways. How metal is that?

The boring machine MudHoney with red paint and the name painted on the side

Ah, it was so much younger and shinier back in 2021 when the project began.

Photo via Seattle Public Utilities

What’s all this for?

Any time it rains in Seattle (and, yeah, it’s kind of our thing), water flows from gutters and storm drains through a combined sewer pipe system to treatment plants.

But much of the city’s sewer pipe infrastructure is ~75-100 years old and doesn’t have the built-in capacity for large surges — so overflow ends up trickling into nearby waterways (not great for Salmon Bay + Lake Union).

MudHoney’s new tunnel will be able to store 30 million gallons of water at a time when operational. That water will eventually flow into a pump station in Ballard and then to an existing treatment plant in Magnolia to get cleaned.

A rendering of a pump station in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle, WA, with a nearby pedestrian walkway

Designs for the Ballard pump station call for an illuminated tower.

Rendering via Seattle Public Utilities

Digging into the future

The MudHoney tunnel was a major milestone for the Ship Canal project, which is pegged to be completed in 2026. In 2024, construction will start on the Ballard pump station with a 70-ft tall tower, odor controls (thankfully), a tree farm, and public art by Jeffrey Veregge of the Port Gamble S’Kallam Tribe.

There will also be underground structures built to connect existing pipes to the MudHoney-dug storage tunnel in Wallingford. Once that’s done, site + road restoration will get underway.

As for our old drill buddy, MudHoney plans to return to its German manufacturer, which may reuse its parts — its casing can be melted down and recycled locally, though. We’ll consider that a boring beach retirement.