Bertha’s down, but tunnel project still pushing forward

The Seattle TimesMarch 7, 2014 

Highway 99 tunnel work is progressing as workers remove temporary concrete liner rings and reconfigure the Sodo pit for construction later of the tunnel’s double-decker highway. Work also is under way on an operations building as well as the tunnel’s north portal near Seattle Center.

MIKE SIEGEL — The Seattle Times

While tunnel machine Bertha takes a very long sabbatical, most of the Highway 99 tunnel labor force will stay busy this spring.

More than 200 of the 300 construction-trades workers have avoided layoffs, state officials say. Only 25 to 30 people work inside the giant drill anyway.

The rest are building a double-deck highway entrance in Sodo, setting the foundation for an operations building, or excavating the tunnel’s north portal near Seattle Center.

“Clearly, there’s a lot of work going on here,” said Matt Preedy, deputy program administrator for the Washington State Department of Transportation. “They’ve not had any significant downsizing yet at this point.”

What’s unclear is whether there’s enough work to sustain those jobs through summer. Seattle Tunnel Partners (STP) has estimated that digging might not resume until at least Sept. 1, after a complicated repair or replacement of Bertha’s bearing assembly.

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