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.

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.

The Solar Pioneer protest barge in Elliot Bay with the Shell oil drilling rig in the background.
KUOW Photo/John Ryan

Shell’s Arctic oil drilling plans, Seattle’s waterfront tunnel, the $15 minimum wage movement – are they all unstoppable? And if Washington state’s drought is unstoppableon the east side of the mountains and we have plenty of water on the west side, should you take as long a shower as you want?

Bill Radke debates the week’s news with LiveWire’s Luke Burbank, Republican Chris Vance and political blogger Erica C. Barnett.

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

Engineers have removed the cutter head from the enormous tunneling machine nicknamed Bertha. The malfunctioning part had been stuck for more than a year in a highway project under Seattle's downtown.

One section of Bertha's front body now sits on the ground near the rescue pit.
AP Photo/Ted Warren

A 270-ton section of Bertha’s front body now lies on the ground in downtown Seattle, ready for workers to add steel reinforcing. The Seattle Tunnel Partners hopes to lay the tunnel borer's cutter head nearby in a couple of weeks. 

They’ll be repaired so workers can complete the tunnel that’s replacing the Alaskan Way Viaduct. KUOW’s Joshua McNichols went to Pioneer Square to see how people are feeling about Bertha these days.

Workers stand on the reddish-gray surface of Bertha.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

Bertha the drill should be back at work on the tunnel to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct by August. There’s still some unstable soil left to drill through.

Officials will be watching Pioneer Square for patches of settling. After that, the ground becomes more firm, and project managers predict smooth drilling at the maximum rate of 65 feet per day.

 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. 

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