deep-bore tunnel

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 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.

Ashley Gross / KPLU

Seattle's waterfront tunnel project is huge. At its height, it's supposed to create almost 3,900 jobs. In a move that shows how important each one of those jobs is, longshoremen headed out to a picket line to protect four of them. 

And that labor dispute over those four jobs has caused some work on the project to grind to a halt. 

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. 

WSDOT

Bertha, the world's largest tunnel boring machine, has finally arrived in Seattle's Elliott Bay.

Jason Bauscher photo / KPLU News

This week, the Seattle Fire Department has been in training for what might be a nightmare scenario: the possibility of fire inside a deep-bore tunnel.  A technical rescue team has been practicing at the unfinished nuclear power plant in Satsop, west of Olympia.

About a dozen firefighters are in a huddle at the base what was designed to be a cooling tower. It’s been re-purposed into one of the nation’s premiere training grounds for urban firefighters.

Ashley Gross / KPLU

The long goodbye to Seattle’s Alaskan Way Viaduct has begun.

With some ceremonial scoops of dirt, officials today began digging a pit for the giant machine that will chew up the earth under Seattle like a massive termite creating the deep-bore tunnel.