Bertha

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

The safety of the Alaskan Way viaduct will be back on the table Monday when the Seattle City Council will hear from the Washington State Department of Transportation about planning for a short- or long-term closure of the busy highway that runs along Seattle's waterfront. 

Seattle Tunnel Partners

Officials overseeing the replacement of Seattle’s Alaskan Way viaduct are trying to tamp down safety concerns. But under questioning Monday from Seattle City Council members, they had a hard time coming up with an answer for when people should start to worry.

Seattle Tunnel Partners

Just six weeks after the contractor managing the State Route 99 tunnel project laid out its timeline for getting back to digging, the company said it’s about a month behind on repairs to its tunneling machine.

Crews are working to burrow down from the surface to where the machine known as Bertha is sitting idle. An early step is to sink a circle of interlocking concrete pillars that will line the access shaft and protect surrounding structures, but that’s proving harder than what the company was planning for in mid-June.

Gabriel Spitzer

Tunneling beneath downtown Seattle likely won’t resume for almost another year, according to Seattle Tunnel Partners, the company managing the project.

Delays have mounted in repairing Bertha, the tunneling machine that has been at a standstill with damaged parts since December.  

Peterson and Brothers / Museum of History and Industry, Seattle

The plan to dig a shaft 12 stories deep to fix Bertha, the Seattle tunnel boring machine, has been put on hold while archaeologists make sure crews won’t dig through important historical sites. 

On Thursday, workers started boring approximately 60 holes, each about as wide as a grapefruit, and digging as deep as 40 feet down through layers of Seattle's floor, which, at the moment, is also Bertha's ceiling. 

WSDOT

An official for the contractor boring the Seattle Highway 99 tunnel says a six month delay in the stalled construction is a "slightly optimistic" forecast.

WSDOT

The Washington state Transportation Department says that, as expected, the contractors digging a highway tunnel under downtown Seattle will repair a seal system on the tunneling machine by digging a shaft in front of it.

WSDOT

The prospect of taking the State Route 99 tunneling machine known as Bertha offline for as much as half a year is not good news for the company operating it. But one Seattle tunneling expert says it could be worse.

“It’s really a problem with the machine itself. I think it’s something that can be repaired,” said the University of Washington’s Joseph Wartman. “And I think in a couple of years when the tunnel is open, people will have forgotten about this.”

Seattle Tunnel Partners

Washington transportation officials and the private contractor operating the tunneling machine known as Bertha disagree on what’s holding up progress on the Highway 99 tunnel project. Neither had definitive answers, but appearing together Tuesday at a news conference, it became clear they’re leaning toward conflicting theories.

WSDOT

The state contractor hasn’t yet decided how to fix the broken seal near Bertha’s bearing, but “either way, this process will take months,” said the state Department of Transportation late Monday.

WSDOT

Remember that big steel pipe — eight inches wide, part of an old well?

The Washington State Department of Transportation never actually accused that pipe of blocking Bertha, but it was definitely a prime suspect.

But on Friday, WSDOT said the pipe isn’t, and never was, the problem.

WSDOT

Seattle's massive tunneling operation is on hold yet again due to ongoing problems with the world's largest boring machine.

After a seven-week stoppage, crews restarted the tunneling machine earlier this week and moved it forward about two feet. Washington state's Department of Transportation said Friday that the machinery showed above-normal temperature readings when that movement occurred.

WSDOT

A Washington Transportation Department spokeswoman says the giant machine digging a highway tunnel under downtown Seattle has advanced two more feet, far enough to allow crews to build the next concrete ring of the tunnel.

Tuesday's progress was the first for the machine in nearly two months, since it stalled Dec. 6 some 60 feet underground.

WSDOT

Crews have found a hard object more than 3 feet wide lodged in the tunneling machine that's currently stalled 60 feet under the city of Seattle, officials said Wednesday.

The large object is either a boulder or piece of concrete that got stuck within the massive spokes of the machine called Bertha, said state Department of Transportation spokeswoman Laura Newborn. Crews have also found metal and plastic piping in the machine but have not concluded what exactly has been causing problems for the machine.

"None of these things in and of themselves is enough to slow the machine down," Newborn said.

Senator: Seattle Should Pay For Tunnel Cost Overruns

Jan 9, 2014
WSDOT

A leading Republican in the state Senate says Seattle taxpayers should foot the bill for any potential cost overruns on the Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement project.

The machine digging a tunnel to replace the elevated highway along Seattle's waterfront has been stuck for more than a month, raising concerns that more funds will be needed for that $1.4 billion project.

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