Leica Geosystems Monitoring Solutions Stand Guard in Seattle

Every day, technology from Leica Geosystems provides real solutions to complex design and engineering challenges. Usually this work is carried out without much public knowledge; local citizens see the surveyors, engineers or construction professionals on the job site, but they pay little attention to the technology being used. So I was pleasantly surprised when I recently received a link to a Seattle news story featuring our TM30 total station in the main photo.

There was no mention of Leica Geosystems or the TM30, the technology was simply referred to as Cyclops, a fitting nickname for a machine with a single, prominent, black telescopic lens. The focus of the story was the importance of this technology to a major transportation project under way in Seattle – the Washington State Department of Transportation and its agency partners are digging a massive tunnel under the city to replace the SR 99 Alaskan Way Viaduct, a double-deck highway that has spanned the downtown waterfront for more than 50 years. The new tunnel, which will measure a record-breaking 57.5 feet in diameter, is being carved out by a gigantic 6,100-ton machine called Big Bertha, built specifically for the project. “Cyclops” is on guard to watch for any aboveground movement that might be caused by Big Bertha’s activity.

The instrument highlighted in the Seattle news story is just one of 37 TM30s that are part of a comprehensive network comprising about 4,000 sensors that measure everything from the vertical deformation and horizontal movement of the ground to static pressure in groundwater and stress and strain on nearby buildings. The network was designed by SOLDATA, a Seattle-based firm that specializes in risk mitigation on large construction sites and is responsible for monitoring aboveground changes during the tunnel boring.

Each TM30 instrument operates 24/7 and automatically measures about 50 points in cycles lasting 20 to 30 minutes. If any positional changes are detected, the system will immediately send alerts to the crews operating the tunnel boring machine and can even shut down the machine if needed. Although this sophisticated monitoring network can’t prevent problems in the tunneling operation, it can help the crews react to them much more quickly, which is key to minimizing damage. The Seattle news media has highlighted the importance of “Cyclops” in several stories and videos focusing on the project.

I’m always thrilled to see our spatial measurement solutions receive media coverage. Most often, this publicity is in trade magazines focusing on surveying, engineering or construction. In Seattle, we get to play a starring role in a project that has huge implications for the citizens in the region. Although it’s enjoyable to be in the spotlight, it’s especially gratifying to consider how our solutions are helping to safeguard cities and move major infrastructure projects forward.

Keeping construction projects and workers safe – that’s shaping smart change.



Ken Mooyman
Hexagon Geosystems, NAFTA

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