Bertha

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

Bertha's Progress

Mar 21, 2014
Flickr Photo/WSDOT (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Bertha, the world's biggest tunneling machine, is a five-story-tall monstrosity of drilling tasked with digging out the tunnel for State Route 99 to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct.

Flickr Photo/WSDOT

The past could present yet another obstacle to the future of the state Route 99 megaproject on the Seattle waterfront.

Archaeologists with the tunnel project started digging a series of 60 small holes Thursday to see if any signs of historic or prehistoric human activity are in the area.

Flickr Photo/WSDOT (CC-BY-NC-ND)

It’s been hard to get straight answers about what forced Bertha, the world's largest tunnel machine, to halt. It began boring July 30, 2013, and when Bertha broke down in December, it was ahead of schedule. Since then, the machine has been mostly idle beneath the Seattle waterfront. Project officials still haven't publicly identified a root cause.

Contractors working for the state of Washington are planning a high-stakes operation to rescue Bertha — the world's largest tunneling machine.

Bertha is supposed to be boring a 2-mile highway tunnel under downtown Seattle, but it got stuck in December.

Bertha is on Seattle's waterfront, between South Main and South Jackson streets, about 60 feet straight down. At first, they thought the machine was being stymied by a big glacial rock. Then attention focused on the chewed-up remains of a metal pipe. But now it seems Bertha's ailment is mechanical.

KUOW/John Ryan

Seattle's tunnel builders say getting their world-record tunnel machine going again will take at least six more months.

The tunnel machine known as Bertha has sat largely motionless for nearly three months since it overheated in early December.

Flickr Photo/WSDOT (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Bertha needs a face lift.

Washington State Department of Transportation officials told the Seattle City Council Monday afternoon that the face of the state Route 99 tunnel machine has to come off in order to repair its damaged machinery.

The Alaskan Way Viaduct sank 1.25 inches in November, prompting state officials to consider stopping a water pumping project nearby.
Flickr Photo/camknows (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Anyone who's hosted a party has probably had that panicky feeling beforehand: What if you throw a big party and nobody comes?

State transportation officials face a similar worry: What if after they build a $3.1 billion underground highway to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct, not enough people use it?

Build It And They Won't Come?

The state Legislature has decreed that tolls have to pay for $200 million of the state Route 99 tunnel's construction cost.

AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File

Governor Jay Inslee puts a halt to executions and initiates a debate about the future of capital punishment in Washington state. Meanwhile, state transportation officials continue to explore the cost overruns as repairs to Bertha are expected to take months. And the housing community reviews Seattle's affordability issue.

Steve Scher talks with Crosscut’s Knute Berger, Eli Sanders of The Stranger and news analyst Joni Balter about this week's top stories.

Flickr Photo/Washington State Department of Transportation

Marcie Sillman talks with state transportation secretary Lynn Peterson about Bertha's latest condition and plans to get the world’s biggest tunnel boring machine moving again.

KUOW Photo/Bond Huberman

Ross Reynolds talks with Seattle Mayor Ed Murray about Bertha's continuing woes and who would ultimately be on the hook for cost overruns.

KUOW Photo/John Ryan

State officials said Friday afternoon that the tunneling machine known as Bertha had to stop, not because it hit foreign objects, but because it clogged with dirt.

Flickr Photo/Washington State Department of Transportation

David Hyde talks with Mike Lindblom, Seattle Times transportation reporter, about why Bertha hasn't  moved since December.

Bertha is the world’s biggest tunnel boring machine that has been charged with digging out the replacement path for the Alaskan Way Viaduct under Seattle.

Courtesy of Burke Museum

David Hyde visits the basement of Burke Museum to speak with geology writer David Williams about the historical artifacts that have been unearthed by Seattle's relentless earth moving.

KUOW Photo/Patricia Murphy

So far, crews trying to determine what’s stalling the State Route 99 tunnel machine have found a hard object more than three feet wide lodged in it.

They’ve also found metal and plastic piping. But what exactly is causing the stoppage is still unknown.

Flickr Photo/Mark Samia

A post-NFC championship game interview with Richard Sherman causes controversy. Is Seattle the "bad guy" in the Super Bowl narrative? Plus, Bertha stays stuck, and the Eastside Catholic School president steps down.

We review these stories and more with news analyst Joni Balter, Crosscut's Knute Berger and The Stranger's Eli Sanders. Plus, we hear from Live Wire host Luke Burbank.

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