Tunnel machine creeps ahead two feet

The Seattle TimesJanuary 28, 2014 

In this WSDOT photo from May 2013, the State Route 99 tunneling machine’s cutterhead was held aloft by a large gantry crane before joining other pieces of the machine in the 400-foot launch pit. The machine, often called Bertha, began tunneling under Seattle in summer 2013.


State officials said the Highway 99 tunnel machine crept forward two feet today — its first forward progress since Dec. 6, when Seattle Tunnel Partners stopped mining near the waterfront to examine the mechanical parts and the rotary cutting face.

The short trip allowed workers to hoist and fasten the 149th ring of the tunnel tube, said Lars Erickson, spokesman for the Department of Transportation. The drill, known as Bertha, will pause again for tests and maintenance, before continuing in wet, soft soils toward the Alaskan Way Viaduct. Eventually, it’s scheduled to pass under the elevated highway and beneath downtown.

So far this week, the contractors and state DOT have given no explanations as to why the machine behaved oddly and failed to grab soil on Dec. 6. Earlier this week Matt Preedy, DOT’s deputy Highway 99 administrator, said Bertha’s condition was fine, and the cutter inspections found no major obstacles.

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