What's blocking Bertha? A huge steel pipe

The Seattle TimesJanuary 3, 2014 

A buried steel pipe is at least partly to blame for stopping the giant tunnel-boring machine Bertha, which has been stuck since Dec. 6 along the Seattle waterfront near South Main Street.

The long pipe was a “well casing” used to measure groundwater during studies in 2002 on the Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement project, state DOT spokesman Lars Erickson said this afternoon. The well site was listed in reference materials that were provided to bidders as part of the contract specifications, he said.

“I don’t want people to say WSDOT didn’t know where its own pipe was, because it did,” Erickson said.

It’s unclear for now why the pipe was left in the ground by the team that did those soil investigations, or why Seattle Tunnel Partners would not have removed it prior to drilling.

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