The State Route 99 Tunnel Project

Credit 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. 

It's journey to the center of the earth underneath downtown Seattle began in July 2013, and since then the project has seen its fair share of successes and failures.

Follow the progress of the $3 billion megaproject with KUOW.

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Megaprojects
9:58 am
Mon July 21, 2014

Seattle Tunnel Partner Wins $80 Million Dispute Over Boston’s Big Dig

Road signs from Boston's Big Dig.
Flickr Photo/Nantaskart!

One of the two companies attempting to dig a highway tunnel beneath the Seattle waterfront has won an $80 million dispute with the Massachusetts Department of Transportation.

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Boring Bertha
12:00 pm
Tue June 17, 2014

Officials: Bertha, World's Largest Tunnel Machine, Will Be More Robust

The guts of Bertha, the tunnel boring machine.
Credit Flickr Photo/WSDOT (CC-BY-NC-ND)

The builders of the tunnel machine stuck beneath the Seattle waterfront don’t just plan to repair the world’s largest tunnel machine.

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SR 99 Tunnel Project
3:39 pm
Fri May 2, 2014

How Bertha Compares To Other Mega Projects

Crowds gather at the launch site of Bertha, the state Route 99 tunnel machine.
Flickr Photo/WSDOT (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Marcie Sillman talks to professor Wendy Haynes of Bridgewater State University about the problems associated with billion-dollar mega-projects.

SR 99 Tunnel Project
3:17 pm
Tue April 29, 2014

Bertha Costs: Who Will Pick Up The Tab?

Bertha, the SR 99 tunnel machine, has stopped and will not likely begin tunneling again until next spring.
Flickr Photo/WSDOT (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Marcie Sillman talks with Lynn Peterson, Washington state transportation secretary, about the estimated $125 million in extra costs for Bertha's tunneling delay.

Light Rail
7:48 pm
Mon April 28, 2014

Tunnel Machine Set To Dig Under Seattle, But It's Not Bertha

The machine Sound Transit is using to dig a light-rail tunnel from Northgate to the University of Washington in Seattle.
KUOW Photo/John Ryan

A tunnel machine is set to resume digging beneath the streets of Seattle in mid-June.

No, it's not Bertha. It's Brenda.

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Bertha Delays
2:14 pm
Mon April 28, 2014

Highway 99 Tunnel Builder Asks For An Additional $190 Million

Bertha, the SR 99 tunnel machine, has stopped and will not likely begin tunneling again until next spring.
Flickr Photo/WSDOT (CC-BY-NC-ND)

David Hyde speaks with former transportation secretary Doug MacDonald about the recent budget issues with Seattle’s tunnel project.

Megaprojects
12:05 pm
Tue April 22, 2014

No More Tunneling By Bertha Until March 2015

Drilling crews started on Friday and plan to continue around the clock for a month, injecting a cement-water mix into the ground where a shaft will be dug to expose the front of the stalled tunnel machine.
Credit KUOW Photo/John Ryan

State transportation officials say the tunnel machine now stuck beneath the downtown Seattle waterfront won't resume tunneling for another 10 months. Digging is now forecast to resume in March 2015.

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SR 99 Tunnel Project
1:58 pm
Fri March 21, 2014

Bertha's Progress

Bertha's launch pit.
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.

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New Obstacles To Megaproject?
8:23 am
Fri March 14, 2014

Archaeological Digging Starts On Seattle's Stalled Tunnel Project

Removing Bertha's cutter head will require digging through soil that could have archaeological resources.
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.

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SR 99 Tunnel
7:57 am
Tue March 11, 2014

Bertha's Very Bad Week, A Timeline

Tunneling crews discuss their progress as they operate Bertha in November 2013. Inch-by-inch progress data is collected and analyzed by dozens of monitors on the 57.5-foot-diameter machine as it tunnels its way beneath Seattle.
Credit 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.

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Around the Nation
2:43 am
Sat March 1, 2014

Sand Grinds World's Largest Tunneling Machine To A Halt

The Seattle tunneling machine known as Bertha, which started its task in July, is now stuck 60 feet underground.
Ted S. Warren AP

Originally published on Sat March 1, 2014 8:03 am

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.

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Bertha Woes
6:23 pm
Fri February 28, 2014

Six Months Needed To Repair Seattle Tunnel Machine

Chris Dixon of Seattle Tunnel Partners
Credit 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.

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SR 99 Tunnel Project
9:00 am
Tue February 25, 2014

Transportation Officials: To Fix Bertha, Cutter Head Needs To Be Removed

Bertha's face, seen here before starting the state Route 99 tunnel, will need to be removed for repairs.
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.

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SR 99 Tunnel Project
9:44 am
Fri February 21, 2014

Tunnel Tolling: Build It, And They Won't Come?

The Alaskan Way Viaduct section of state Route 99 is being replaced by a tunnel under downtown Seattle and will be partially paid for with toll revenues.
Credit 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.

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The Week In Review
2:53 pm
Fri February 14, 2014

Death Penalty Debate, Bertha Costs, And No Place Like Home

Governor Jay Inslee announced Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014, that he is suspending the use of the death penalty in Washington state, but the moratorium does not commute the sentences of people currently condemned to death.
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.

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