Bertha | KUOW News and Information

Bertha

Stories about Bertha, the SR 99 tunneling machine. Should also be used for tunnel or Alaskan Way Viaduct stories.

Local Wonder bill radke
KUOW Photo/Bond Huberman

Weed is legal, but we're still figuring out how to talk about it around kids. State lawmakers do know this much: A billboard with a cat saying "IM SO HIGH RIGHT MEOW" goes too far.

Bertha has finally finished boring through the muck underneath downtown Seattle. Now comes the hard part: deciding how much drivers should have to pay to drive through a new tunnel.

KUOW PHOTO/BOND HUBERMAN

What a week.

The Seattle Times reports on bombshell allegations that Mayor Ed Murray sexually abused up to three teenaged men in the 1980s -- claims the Mayor strongly denies and plans to fight in court. 

President Trump orders a cruise missile strike on a Syrian military airfield in retaliation for a chemical attack that killed Syrian civilians earlier this week.

A divided Senate does away with the filibuster and confirms Neil M. Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.

And Bertha emerges from a four-year trip underneath downtown Seattle just in time to catch it all.

Members of Bertha's crew pose with the American flag after the SR 99 tunneling machine broke into her disassembly pit on April 4, 2017.
WSDOT

It’s over.

As dozens of people looked on Tuesday, Bertha broke through to daylight after a nearly two mile dig under Seattle that took almost four years. Seattle is one step closer to replacing the aging Alaskan Way viaduct and moving a two mile section of state route 99 underground. 


Updated at 4 p.m. ET

It was the world's biggest tunneling machine when it first chewed into the loose dirt and gravel on Seattle's waterfront in 2013. With a cutting head nearly 60 feet wide, it had been built in Japan and shipped across the Pacific to dig a two-mile-long double-decker highway tunnel under downtown.

The machine was named "Bertha" in honor of a 1920s-era mayor — the prefatory "Big" always implied, never stated.

WSDOT

Remember Bertha, and how lots of people thought it would never finish digging the two-mile tunnel beneath Seattle's waterfront?

Well, the machine reached daylight around midday on Tuesday. After nearly four years of digging, the machine is about to reach the finish line on Highway 99 near the Space Needle.

Deborah Daoust of Seattle Center says when Harrison Street busts through Aurora in 2019, it'll be much easier for people to get from South Lake Union to the Seattle Center. Thomas and John streets will also break through later.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

The tunnel boring machine called Bertha is currently about a half mile from the end of its journey. Contractors expect to be pulling it out of the ground by June. But the tunnel through downtown Seattle is only part of the project. 

The neighborhood around the tunnel’s northern entrance is also getting a makeover.


Excavation equipment has just begun digging for the next phase of Amazon's headquarters.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

As a general contractor who does small house remodels in Seattle, Chris Spott knows how to get rid of a pickup truck load of dirt. 

Progress at last on the tunnel being built to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct.
Flickr Photo/Washington State Department of Transportation CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The Alaskan Way Viaduct is back in operation after a closure that was supposed to last two weeks, but only lasted for a week and a bit.

It’s a surprise, and not the kind we are used to from Bertha, the tunnel borer that could, then couldn’t, and now apparently can. Bertha's bearings and seals were damaged early on, forcing the Seattle Tunnel Partners to haul it to the surface for a massive repair that completed just a few months ago.


Two workers walk through the first rings of the tunnel toward Bertha, the SR 99 tunneling machine.
Flickr Photo/WSDOT (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Bertha the tunneling machine will slowly grind its way below the foundations of the viaduct over the next two weeks.

A view to the back end of Bertha, the SR 99 tunneling machine. The steel hooks on both sides of the wall of the tunnel will become part of the foundation that will support the decks and walls of the future roadway, according to the state.
Flickr Photo/Washington State Department of Transportation

Bertha has stopped again, but this time, it’s on purpose.

The tunnel boring machine rests in an underground concrete vault. Workers are putting the tunnel boring machine through complex tests before it pushes under the Alaskan Way Viaduct. 

Republicans listed other problems with transportation in the state since Peterson took the job: Tolling on 520 across Lake Washington, Bertha, the enormous boring tunnel in Seattle that has failed to move forward, and ferries breaking down.
Associated Press Pool Photo/Joshua Trujillo/Seattlepi.com

A coup went down in Olympia this afternoon.

Surprising Democrats, Republican lawmakers called for a confirmation vote for Lynn Peterson, Secretary of Transportation for Washington state. In a party line vote of 25 to 21, they fired her.

Crews working for Seattle Tunnel Partners watch as the SR 99 tunneling machine’s cutterhead rotates during testing on Dec. 16, 2015.
Flickr Photo/WSDOT (CC BY NC ND 2.0)/http://bit.ly/1SQLVB5

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has issued an emergency order to stop the tunneling work along Seattle's waterfront.

Contractors found a sinkhole 35 feet long and 15 feet deep near the tunneling machine known as Bertha Tuesday night, the latest of several problems facing the project.

In this Dec. 15, 2015 photo, a crew member working for Seattle Tunnel Partners watches a crane lift other crew members out of the pit that STP used to access and repair Bertha.
Flickr Photo/WSDOT (CC BY NC ND 2.0)/http://bit.ly/1O7O5sO

Bertha is on the move again. 

The tunnel boring machine got stuck a little over two years ago, shortly after it hit a metal pipe. It’s taken until now to get the machine going again.

Chris Dixon of Seattle Tunnel Partners speaks about Bertha's status on Dec. 23, 2015.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

Bertha the drill is ready to start work again. But first it’ll take a little rest over the holidays.

This July 2015 photo shows the SR 99 tunneling machine’s main bearing encircled by the gear ring that facilitates rotation of the cutterhead.
Washington State Department of Transportation

Bertha, the giant tunnel boring machine stalled in downtown Seattle, remains in pieces at the foot of the Alaskan Way Viaduct.

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