Sept. 1 restart for Bertha; bearing damage suspected

The Seattle TimesMarch 1, 2014 

Looking north along the State Route 99 corridor toward downtown Seattle, April 2012. (WSDOT)

WSDOT

Seattle Tunnel Partners will try to restart the stranded Highway 99 tunnel machine by Sept. 1, the team’s project director, Chris Dixon, announced Friday.

Dixon also acknowledged for the first time that the main bearing shows symptoms of damage. The circular, 35-foot diameter part must be in prime condition for drilling to occur — because the bearing contains rolling parts that allow the machine’s two dozen electric motors to turn the round cutter head.

Over the next few months, a 120-foot-deep pit must be dug in front of the machine so that workers can remove or bypass the cutter head and reach the bearing. Dixon said Friday that all seven of the bearing’s rubberized seals, which block grit from reaching the bearing rollers, must be replaced.

A spare bearing is now stored in Osaka, Japan, he said, and will be shipped to Seattle — so that the job doesn’t lose any time if the full bearing replacement is needed.

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