During the month of September the world economy showed signs of slowing down—whether in Europe where another recession may be looming, here in the United States where unemployment remains mostly unchanged or in China, where a manufacturing survey suggested a sharp slowdown.

For many, September marks a month of new beginnings, the end of summer and a fresh school year. With the aforementioned financial and economic doldrums of this summer continuing into the autumnal months, I’d like to request we take another Labor Day weekend and start again in October.

However gloomy the world economy may be forecasted, the end of summer brought good news to contractor Seattle Tunnel Partners (STP), the joint venture of New York-based Dragados USA and California-based Tutor Perini that will design and build the Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement bored tunnel in Seattle.

In August the citizens of Seattle took to the polls, or at least to their mailboxes, to vote in favor of an ordinance passed by the city council regarding agreements with the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT).

This wasn’t a chance for Seattle to vote on whether or not to build the tunnel. Though the very vocal tunnel opposition groups felt a majority “No” at the ballot box would at least provide some meat to their argument. It simply would have created an extra step for the city council before construction would have been allowed to start, meanwhile racking up tens of thousands dollars in delays.

It didn’t work out that way. A majority of Seattle citizens said ‘yes’ to the ordinance, and therefore to the project and STP has notice to proceed. It should be mentioned that this is among concerns over who should pay for any cost overruns.

How this latest bout of economic woes will affect the tunneling industry is just as uncertain as the US economy itself. However, Canada, as with the Great Recession of the past few years, is still ready to weather the storm. In this issue’s Special Report, T&TNA looks at projects in Ontario and British Columbia that represent a wider investment in public transportation and hydro power generation—both of which will have tunnellers busy well into the next decade.

Back in the United States, STP isn’t the only contractor to receive good news this fall. The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency announced initial notice to proceed on the Central Subway for the joint venture of SA Healy and Barnard. And just as this issue went to print a momentous event happened in New York as the tunnelling completed on the Second Avenue Subway project—an event that’s been long awaited, since as early as the 1920s

The outlook for tunnelling for the rest of 2011 is good, despite a continually crashing stock market. While no one can say for certain what this might lead to in 2012, I’ll fall back on everyone’s favorite phrase; I’m cautiously optimistic.

Nicole Robinson