Bertha

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

 Crews chip away a circle on the southern wall of the pit that was built to access and repair Bertha, the SR 99 tunneling machine. Eventually it helped Bertha break through/
Flickr Photo/WSDOT (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Is this week the re-birth of Bertha? What’s the right punishment for a florist who won’t do gay weddings? And a Bellevue man is on the short list to go to Mars and never return. You’ll meet him, along with Q13 FOX’s C.R. Douglas, Jonathan Martin of the Seattle Times and the Seattle Channel's Joni Balter.

Bertha, the tunnel boring machine, emerges from more than a year of captivity. The machine's turbines can be seen beneath the plume of dust.
Washington State Department of Transportation

The tunnel machine that’s been stuck underground for more than a year reached daylight Thursday.

Now Bertha is slowly inching into position for repair work to begin. 

The cutterhead on Seattle's troubled tunnel boring machine broke through the wall of a rescue pit at midday Thursday.

Four workers were injured in an accident at the north end of the 99 tunnel project near Seattle Center on Thursday afternoon.

Three of those workers walked out on their own; firefighters had to walk in half a mile to free a fourth worker who had been trapped 25 feet down from where he fell. 

According to Seattle Fire spokesman Kyle Moore, the men were working on a wall project when it broke beneath them, sending them hurtling 25 feet to the ground below. The men were 23, 29, 31 and 36.

KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

Bertha, the deep boring machine stuck underneath Seattle, will slide on greased metal rails after crashing into a pit.

That’s the plan, anyway, to free the machine from its den, where it has lived for more than a year. Matt Preedy of the Washington Department of Transportation revealed that new nugget of information during an informal chat in Pioneer Square.

What Happened This Week? Thanks For Asking

Jan 16, 2015
Seattle Seahawks' Marshawn Lynch watches the closing moments of an NFL football game against the Arizona Cardinals Sunday, Dec. 21, 2014.
AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin

An engineer said “catastrophic failure” in the same breath as “Bertha” – what does that mean? Washington state has America's most regressive tax system, is that about to change? Should Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch have to talk to the media if he doesn’t want to? And if you weren’t born in the Pacific Northwest, can you ever truly fit in?

Flickr Photo/Washington State Department of Transportation

Marcie Sillman talks to Seattle Mayor Ed Murray about the Highway 99 tunnel project and the city's plan to study the safety of the viaduct.

KUOW Photo/Carolyn Adolph

They were not reassuring words.

Engineers hired to rescue Bertha, the deep boring machine stalled under downtown Seattle, wrote to state officials: “If we continue the current ‘repair as we go’ method of excavation, we significantly increase the risk of a catastrophic failure.”

A transport vehicle carries the new front end of the bearing block for Bertha. First though, the machine has to be dug out from beneath Pioneer Square.
Flickr Photo/WSDOT (CC-BY-NC-ND)

They were not reassuring words.

Engineers hired to rescue Bertha, the deep boring machine stalled under downtown Seattle, wrote to state officials: “If we continue the current ‘repair as we go’ method of excavation, we significantly increase the risk of a catastrophic failure.”

The 'Week in Review' panel broadcasts in front of a live audience at Little London Plane in Pioneer Square on Friday, Jan. 9, 2015.
KUOW Photo/Caroline Dodge

What's the Seattle connection to this week's attack on a French satirical magazine? Is it time to start thinking about a Plan B for Bertha, the slumbering tunnel machine? And should we open an Ivar's fish and chips bar inside the aging Kalakala ferry instead of cutting it apart with a blowtorch?

Bill Radke reviews the week's news along with news analyst Joni Balter, Crosscut's Knute Berger, former Seattle mayor Charles Royer and special guest  chef Matt Dillon in front of a live audience at The Little London Plane in Pioneer Square.

See more photos from the event on KUOW's Facebook page

Flickr Photo/WSDOT

She loves dirt and hates sunlight. Seattle Magazine named her one of 2013’s most influential people, except she’s not really a person. She’s Bertha, the world’s biggest tunnel boring machine, charged with digging out the replacement path for the Alaskan Way Viaduct under Seattle.

Her profile on the Washington State Department of Transportation site lists her occupation as a tunneling specialist, but right now she’s stuck and has been since December 6. In light of her current predicament, the decision to name the machine, and thus humanize it, could be a shrewd move.

In this November 2014 photo, construction crews are building walls for the future northbound roadway inside the SR 99 tunnel.
Flickr Photo/WSDOT (CC-BY-NC-ND)

This week, President Obama interrupts Week In Review to talk about about the North Korea hacking attack on Sony, but not before we recap the news: Will the legislature will let Governor Inslee break his no-new-taxes pledge? The tunnel project is "70 percent done" -- what? How does a Seattleite say “bagel,” and is it correct? Bill Radke welcomes Essex Porter, Joni Balter and Deborah Wang to the panel to discuss the week's news.

Seattle City Councilmember Mike O'Brien, longtime opponent of the waterfront tunnel, has been pushing Washington State Department of Transportation officials to be more transparent.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

Pioneer Square sank more than an inch, and Bertha the giant tunnel boring machine is still stuck, but state officials are putting on a happy face.

Washington State Department of Transportation officials returned to the Seattle City Council Monday to discuss worst-case scenarios for the waterfront tunnel project. Bertha, stuck under downtown Seattle for nearly a year, was mid-rescue when officials realized that buildings were settling deeper into the ground.

Yikes.

Real Change field organizer Neil Lampi says the sticky door to the closet where they store unsold newspapers became so stuck, they had to take it off its hinges. He says he's "put two and two together," and now blames the soil settlement in Pioneer Square
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

Pioneer Square has stopped settling, or so say Washington State Department of Transportation officials. They’re monitoring 20 buildings in this old downtown Seattle quarter, some of which have sunk up to 1.4 inches since 2010. But some building owners are nervous, especially in light of news that effort to rescue Bertha, the massive tunnel boring machine, may be causing further sinking.

The hole built to rescue Bertha, the deep boring machine.
WSDOT webcam

  Much of Seattle's Pioneer Square neighborhood has sunk an inch or more, according to a map released by state transportation officials on Thursday.

The sinking is greatest next to a 120-foot-deep pit being dug to rescue the broken-down tunnel machine known as Bertha. There, the ground has sunk 1.4 inches.

Areas more than a quarter mile away from the pit have sunk by half an inch or more.

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