Bertha

AP Images

There's always interesting stuff in the news that gets overshadowed by the big stories. On Sound Effect we invite a panel a journalists to talk over their nominees for under-covered story of the week. 

WSDOT

 

Bertha has reached her goal.

The cutterhead on Seattle's troubled tunnel machine broke through the 20-foot-thick wall of a rescue pit at about noon on Thursday. Video from a television helicopter showed a big plume of dust coming from inside the pit as the machine emerges.

WSDOT

Bertha is on the move.

The broken-down tunnel machine began its journey toward an access pit where, if it makes it, workers will remove the front of the machine for repairs. It started moving on Tuesday night and had moved 3 feet by 7 a.m. on Wednesday. Bertha must travel another 17 feet to reach the pit. It must tunnel through the pit's 20-foot concrete wall.

Five workers installing rebar on a concrete wall at north portal of the Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement Project fell about 25 feet when a wall of rebar gave way.

Seattle Fire spokesman Kyle Moore says two Seattle firefighters walked about a half mile into the tunnel and carried out one of the injured men while the four others walked out after the Thursday afternoon incident.

One of the men who walked out was not injured, while four others were taken to Harborview Medical Center, he said. One of the men suffered a fractured arm and was in stable condition, while the three others were evaluated.

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.

WSDOT

The Washington Transportation Department says crews have completed the second of four planned exploratory 5-foot-wide shafts being dug in front of a massive machine that got stuck last month while boring a tunnel under downtown Seattle.

Spokeswoman Laura Newborn says the shafts are being dug in hopes of identifying any metal in the path of the machine known as Bertha and removing as much of any such obstruction as possible.

WSDOT

A steel pipe that the state Department of Transportation itself had installed back in 2002 sits in the way of Bertha underneath Seattle, WSDOT said on Friday, and it may be the cause of the weeks-long work stoppage.

An inspection on Jan. 2 “showed an 8-inch-diameter steel pipe protruding through one of the many openings in the cutterhead,” WSDOT said, adding the agency had installed the pipe, a well casing, in the wake of the 2001 Nisqually quake to better understand groundwater flow. 

WSDOT

The Transportation Department and contractors building a highway tunnel under downtown Seattle are trying to find out what has blocked their tunnel boring machine.

The machine called Bertha ran into something Friday and was shut down Saturday about 1,000 feet from the start.

WSDOT

The machine boring a new Highway 99 tunnel under downtown Seattle has finally dug itself out of its own launch pit.

The Transportation Department said Wednesday the 326-foot long machine it calls Bertha has drilled 359 feet.

WSDOT

The drill known as Bertha is back to eating dirt after a slow start, then a delay, then a delay caused by the delay.

The massive machine boring the Highway 99 tunnel beneath Seattle had been sitting still while two labor unions duked it out over a handful of jobs.

Gov. Jay Inslee announced last week he’d brokered a deal in the dispute, and said the digging would resume after a few days.

WSDOT

The tunnel-boring machine known as Big Bertha will resume digging after longshoremen agreed to remove their picket line which had been in place since Aug. 20.

Gov. Jay Inslee on Tuesday said the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 19 agreed to let the project resume despite an unresolved labor dispute with the project contractor, Seattle Tunnel Partners, over four jobs.

WSDOT

The State Route 99 tunnel boring machine, better known by her nickname “Bertha,” is poised and ready to begin the dig under downtown.  

To get a bird’s eye view, we climb three stories on temporary metal staircases near Pioneer Square. At the top, we’re standing on what remains of the lower deck of the Alaskan Way viaduct.