In the pit with ‘Bertha,’ 8 days before tunnel machine’s dedication

July 12, 2013 at 7:18 pm | In Alaskan Way Viaduct | 15 Comments

One week from tomorrow, a public dedication is planned for the machine that will dig the Highway 99 tunnel, known as “Bertha.” Today, West Seattleite Vlad Oustimovitch, who has been on the advisory committee for the project and related transportation issues, got a preview in a launch-pit tour – and is sharing his photos. Three more up-close photos – and some updated info – ahead:

Seems everyone has seen Bertha’s cutter head – the iconic green piece of the machinery – but there’s plenty of infrastructure elsewhere along the massive machine:

So how soon will Bertha be launched, you ask? Coincidentally, right about the time Vlad e-mailed us about his photos, we got a quick chance to chat (at Summer Fest!) with West Seattliete Matt Preedy, the WSDOT deputy program administrator, who has a top role on the project. He says it could be as soon as a few days after the July 20th event.

Next Saturday’s public event, in which you can get a closeup look too, runs 11:30 am-3 pm. You’ll find tons of information about it on this WSDOT webpage, including map and directions.

15 Comments

  1. I’ve heard they’re already projecting they’ll be over budget. Fact? Fiction? If fact, by how much (so far.) Anyone know?

    Comment by Tuesday — 9:02 pm July 12, 2013 #

  2. Great photos, Vlad – thanks for sharing. I’m very jealous you got to go down there!

    Comment by Trileigh — 11:10 pm July 12, 2013 #

  3. Thanks for the lovely photo of Seattle’s very own Trojan Horse.

    Comment by pupsarebest — 11:14 pm July 12, 2013 #

  4. That babe is gonna do good. A cakewalk, so to speak. Bertha, start your engines. Make a mockery of the nay-sayers.

    Comment by Leo Moto Guzzi — 12:58 am July 13, 2013 #

  5. The only engineering project that didn’t go over budget was The Parting of the Red Sea – and that was because of an exceptional prime contractor.
    What I like is that this is the sort of big project U.S. engineers used to do. Anybody look at the cost of Grand Coulee Dam? Balance that against the long term benefit.

    Comment by Chasmeister — 6:25 am July 13, 2013 #

  6. Yo Chas, do I smell a red herring?

    Comment by Rick — 6:36 am July 13, 2013 #

  7. Thanks for the great pictures. Go Bertha, go.

    Comment by Wade — 8:20 am July 13, 2013 #

  8. Well said Chasmeister.

    Comment by West Seattle Hipster — 9:35 am July 13, 2013 #

  9. I don’t care how much it costs. I just care when it is sold under one budget (that is OBVIOUSLY a best, best, best case scenario) and then whoops! I guess it’s going to cost a billion more. Case in point… Boston’s “big dig”. It’s becoming the standard (regardless of party) for politicians to lie their faces off and then just ignore the reality once it comes, because they were able to rally support for the idea when combined with a lie of a budget. Truth doesn’t matter any more. I’m not sure whether that makes me more sad, angry or unsafe.

    Comment by Tuesday — 3:24 pm July 13, 2013 #

  10. I also don’t care how much it costs, because it is what is it. I worry because we are in an earthquake zone. Seems like its tempting fate to dig such an ambitious tunnel under a city that is known to have a history a earthquakes. Just saying.

    Comment by Noelle — 4:03 pm July 13, 2013 #

  11. San Francisco is also in an earthquake zone, and the BART tunnels have fared well there, including the tube underneath SF Bay.

    Since I am cheap, I will probably very rarely use this tunnel, and I am disappointed that the capacity will be reduced from what the viaduct currently has. However, our infrastructure is outdated and obsolete, so it’s time to get busy replacing what they have.

    Just wait until I-5 needs to be overhauled.

    Comment by West Seattle Hipster — 6:12 pm July 13, 2013 #

  12. Part of me just can’t help being excited by such big projects. One fanciful project I would love to see happen is the rail tunnel under the Bering Strait proposed by some consortium in Russia. Would allow trains to go from New York to London one day. But it seems we are not supposed to incubate big ideas any more:(

    Comment by Last53BusRider — 7:34 pm July 13, 2013 #

  13. Yeah, hugely expensive projects with less capacity than current old infrastructure is a super good idea. I mean, a no brainer really. Once again, Seattle, you nailed it!

    Comment by Tuesday — 8:53 pm July 13, 2013 #

  14. just today i was enjoying the view driving to work…..knowing that this ridiculous tunnel project will reserve my daily commute scenery for the wealthy. great idea….

    Comment by Grack — 10:03 am July 15, 2013 #

  15. Chasmeister,
    apparently our Spokane Street Viaduct came in under budget enough to put life saving ‘sharrow’ paint totems on our roads for miles around…!

    Just hoping that a 4 lane tolled tunnel can replace a no-toll 6 lane arterial. Best of luck with that, and no injuries.

    Comment by Dead End Marc — 5:13 pm July 16, 2013 #

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