New plan to get Bertha moving has yet to move

The Seattle TimesFebruary 6, 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.


A week after tunnel-boring machine Bertha overheated during a restart attempt, contractors have not submitted a plan to resume drilling.

The state Department of Transportation (DOT) has stopped making public statements, while its engineers, a special expert panel, contractor Seattle Tunnel Partners (STP) and drill manufacturer Hitachi-Zosen troubleshoot the Highway 99 project.

Bertha has drilled only 36 days, or 1,023 feet, since the 9,270-foot bore from Sodo to South Lake Union began July 30.

Last month, DOT Secretary Lynn Peterson told state senators she’s had concerns for months about how Bertha was running, well before operators shut it down Dec. 6. Peterson asked STP in mid-January for a strategy to resume drilling and regain lost time.

“Lynn has not received the plan yet from the contractors, but we know they’re working with the experts now to develop a plan,” her spokesman, Lars Erickson, said Thursday.


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