How close is the Highway 99 tunneling machine to breakthrough? So close that …

(WSDOT photo of ‘disassembly pit’ that accompanied today’s progress-report tweet)

The Highway 99 tunneling team has now moved from twice-weekly progress reports to daily progress reports. Not that the tunneling machine is on an “any day now” basis yet, but here’s what WSDOT reports this afternoon:

Seattle Tunnel Partners is making final preparations for the SR 99 tunneling machine’s arrival at the disassembly pit near Seattle Center. Because mining rates will continue to vary as crews approach the pit, we can’t predict when Bertha’s breakthrough will occur. We will continue to provide regular progress updates along the way.

We recognize that there is great interest surrounding this stage of the project, and we are working on ways to share this historic moment with the public. We will be activating a new time-lapse camera as well as streaming video of the disassembly pit prior to breakthrough. These cameras will offer the best view of Bertha’s arrival in the pit. We will also continue to share photos and provide frequent updates via social media, including daily progress updates. For safety reasons, the public will not be allowed in the construction zone during the breakthrough.

Look for more updates soon about the breakthrough sequence, the process for disassembling Bertha and the work that remains before the tunnel opens in 2019.

As of today, WSDOT tweeted, “Today Bertha has 320 feet to go – less than the Mariners 326′ right-field foul line in Safeco Field.” They’ve said that they won’t be setting up an in-person breakthrough-watching event because the pit is in the middle of a construction zone.

14 Replies to "How close is the Highway 99 tunneling machine to breakthrough? So close that ..."

  • Sna March 23, 2017 (5:11 pm)

    My prediction is next Friday night for a break through. 

  • Tim March 23, 2017 (6:44 pm)

    I bet a beer,  3:45 pm Friday next week. 

  • KD March 23, 2017 (9:55 pm)

    I think we should be betting which ‘births’ first.. Bertha birthing and breaking through, or that ongoing saga of the pregnant giraffe April (who for anyone that gets the news notices ‘says’ any day now.. for over two weeks now!) will pop out and birth her baby!! Which one happens first folks? April or Bertha?!!!

  • k.davis March 23, 2017 (10:00 pm)

    I’m waiting to read the comments from all the people who posted here assuring us with great certainty that this project would most assuredly fail and that Bertha would never complete the job.  


    People … we’re waiting.  Crickets chirping.  


    This is an amazing engineering achievement.  Could we please have a little hype from folks about what a remarkable achievement is about to be accomplished.  

    • WSB March 23, 2017 (10:53 pm)

      On this date four years ago, the tunneling machine was on a ship headed this way:

      On this date two years ago, they lifted another piece of the machine out of the “rescue pit” for repairs:

      On this date one year ago, the machine was on a “maintenance stop” getting ready to go under the Alaskan Way Viaduct:

    • MIckymse March 24, 2017 (3:05 pm)

      For the record…

      1) Many of us suggested that there was catastrophic risk, and a high probability of schedule delay and cost overruns. The dig is well past promised deadline; and we still don’t know who is going to pay for the hundreds of millions in cost overruns. The machine also basically broke down completely and the company did the equivalent of deep-sea pressure-diving to almost completely rebuild the machine with stronger replacement parts that were shipped over.

      2) We said that a significant traffic reduction could be realized with increased transit, street improvements, and changes to commuter behavior — and were laughed at. However, that occurred, and traffic on the Viaduct has shrunk almost at the level that was predicted.

      3) Finally, we said why spend so much money to only move half or less of the traffic, when you would still need to spend money to make surface improvements. Well — surprise! — we still need to build an 8-lane surface road, and more street improvements are being hidden under the cover of One Center City and convention center expansion planning. So we’re still spending much more local taxpayer money on all of this than we needed to.

      But — ABSOLUTELY — I applaud them for an amazing engineering achievement that will be world-renowned. We just didn’t need it here on our waterfront.

  • Greg Noel March 24, 2017 (9:12 am)

    I would like to remind the public that one of the biggest nay-sayers of Bertha’s completion is Kiro Radio’s Dori Monson. He is in fact such a doubter that he _promised_ that if Bertha ever made it to the exit pit, he would strap himself to the wall so she could bore through him. Not that I really want to see him do this and be hurt or killed but… I do want to see him ridiculed for making such a ridiculous comment and not following through. Spread the word! Ridicule Dori Monson. ;-)

    • tonenotvolume March 24, 2017 (12:05 pm)

      Media is forever, whether Dori or Trump! 

  • 56bricks March 24, 2017 (11:41 am)

    For a hundred gazillion billion trillion dollars I could engineer just about anything.  Maybe even make the sun rise in the west, ya know. All it really takes is more sheep.

  • Vanessa March 24, 2017 (12:01 pm)

    They should fix the viaduct and keep on with the big dig…have your new tunnel AND FIX the viaduct. More options for traffic. Why didn’t I think of this earlier. Too late now I guess. I’m gonna REALLY miss the Seneca exit….I’m just saying…..

  • WsEd March 24, 2017 (12:16 pm)


    Now I get to pay tolls on top of the taxes that I am paying for this thing that doesn’t increase capacity.  It should have been at least three lanes each direction for this much cash.

  • k.davis March 24, 2017 (4:12 pm)

    It is impressive to read the spin and fact-avoidance still prevalent in the anti-tunnel crowd.  I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.  


    @ Vanessa – there was no way to “fix” the Viaduct and make it safe for the earthquake that will come one day.  

    @MickyMse – so much incorrect; no time to respond to all … but the theme you push – that a “surface only – transit” option was viable avoids the pesky truth that a north-south highway along the central waterfront is necessary to keep our economy functioning. 

    @Wsed – infrastructure ain’t cheap.  Building a tunnel with “three lanes” would, quite literally have meant an 80-85′ diameter TBM – not an option in this era.  Bertha is (actually was, there’s a 60-footer now in LA)the biggest TBM ever.  


    The right-wing anti-gov’t/tax folks don’t like it cause it cost, you know, money … the left wing “bus and bikes” folks don’t like it because, you know, cars … and the uninformed don’t like it because, you know, facts.  Must be we got it right.  

  • Rachel Miller March 26, 2017 (11:04 am)

    Please tell us when Breakthrough occurs.

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