Bertha watch: Unloading the ‘face’ of the Highway 99 tunnel project

(Photos by Nick Adams for WSB)
With the Jumbo Fairpartner finally docking on Saturday – four days after its much-watched arrival in Elliott Bay – its cargo, the Highway 99 tunnel machine dubbed “Bertha,” is now coming ashore in its 41 pieces. Today, the most recognizable one – its “face,” aka cutterhead – was offloaded. WSDOT invited media onto the site for a quick look, and WSB contributing photojournalist Nick Adams was there.

The media opportunity ended before the machine’s 886-ton cutterhead was moved off the dock – but there were interesting views of the launch pit too, ahead:

Here’s the superstructure over the pit:

Looking further down from that angle – note the scale, compared to the size of the workers on the catwalk:

If you are wondering how exactly the machine works – here’s a video that WSDOT released a while back:

Back to today’s photos – one more look at where the machine is headed:

From a distance, you can continue watching via webcam.

The actual digging is expected to start sometime this summer, with the tunnel’s completion date currently pegged at late 2015. Lots more info is on the same page as the webcam.

8 Replies to "Bertha watch: Unloading the 'face' of the Highway 99 tunnel project"

  • dsa April 7, 2013 (8:42 pm)

    I hate this project, but seeing those pictures I wish I was working on it.

  • Chuck April 7, 2013 (9:34 pm)

    I like the video. Its good to know whats going on down there, not sure why, but it feels good.

  • ruse April 7, 2013 (11:13 pm)

    That’s like me, I hate the SPD camera that will be 100 ft from my back patio and who’s images will be available to anyone online, but I work in automation, artificial intelligence / machine learning, so who cares, job security for me! Meanwhile I will be automating other’s jobs, so not so good for them. Analyzing the images from cameras everywhere automatically will eventually happen. With face recognition along with new methods of detecting “suspicious” behavior, it will be a very interesting problem to solve.

  • Jennifer April 8, 2013 (8:02 am)

    Very interesting video. I had no idea it was so involved!

  • sam-c April 8, 2013 (8:27 am)

    yeah, the TBM is cool. we checked out its model at Milepost 31 a few months ago. interesting for both kids and adults.

  • Ben April 8, 2013 (10:02 am)

    I continue to believe this tunnel project is a massive waste of our money which also (given the frequency of significant cost overruns on deep-bore tunnel projects worldwide) imperils the financial stability of the City of Seattle.
    That said, now that that ship has apparently sailed, so to speak, it’s fun to watch this impressive feat of engineering (while trying to avoid thoughts of the potential fate of people who are in the tunnel when “the big one” hits!).

  • dawsonct April 8, 2013 (4:55 pm)

    Ben, the bus tunnel came in ahead of time and under budget.
    Brightwater would have as well, if we had given the contract to the local company that came in and rescued it from the French contractors in the first place.
    We have been boring tunnels through our glacial till for many decades now, local contractors have the expertise, and most of the tunnel projects we have done as a community have been successful and within budget.
    Also, this is a WSDOT project, so it is doubtful it will bring financial ruin to our city.
    But yeah, let’s not allow facts to intrude on a good narrative.

    And, oddly enough, a well-constructed tunnel is one of the safest places to be during an earthquake.
    -Signed, son of a civil engineer.

  • Robert April 8, 2013 (5:40 pm)


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