BERTHA BREAKTHROUGH: Now expected Tuesday

(April 2, 2013, WSB photo by Nick Adams)

SUNDAY NIGHT: If you’re on Highway 99 tunnel watch – the tunneling machine is now down to a double-digit distance, 89 feet as of this morning. WSDOT still is not officially predicting what day will bring the “Bertha breakthrough,” but at this rate (it’s gone 38 feet since Friday), it’s likely to be this week. They’ve said that it will happen in two phases – the machine will reach the wall of the disassembly pit and stop, while WSDOT and Seattle Tunnel Partners explain what happens next. Then, likely on the following day, the machine will be set into motion for a several-hours-long breakthrough process. They continue to promise a live camera will be available, since the pit is in a construction zone and a public viewing area isn’t feasible.

P.S. Checking the archives, we note that today is the 4th anniversary of the tunneling machine’s arrival via ship from Japan.

MONDAY AFTERNOON: So much news today that we haven’t had time to publish an update yet, but WSDOT is expecting breakthrough sometime Tuesday – here’s the latest; full update a bit later.

18 Replies to "BERTHA BREAKTHROUGH: Now expected Tuesday"

  • TheKing April 2, 2017 (9:21 pm)

    The viaduct still standing is enough proof that this tunnel project is more about views and profit than public safety. Governor Gregoire stated it would be shut down in 2012 no matter what. 

    • WSB April 2, 2017 (9:49 pm)

      That was kind of a “do something or else” threat in 2008. The next year, the deal for the tunnel was signed (interesting video in our coverage of the signing – then-Sen. Murray at Gregoire’s elbow, Dow Constantine and Greg Nickels flanking him, in front of a fish tank at the Aquarium on the waterfront); half of The Viaduct was demolished in 2011.

      And they keep inspecting what’s left of it:

  • Rick April 2, 2017 (10:47 pm)

    It’s ALWAYS about the dollar$$$$$.

  • George T April 2, 2017 (11:23 pm)

    This is a complex engineering project rivaling anything that’s been done in Seattle, aside from building jumbo jets, which propell us, safely,  quickly, anywhere in the world.  Were there unexpected delays? Sure. Welcome to humanity.  The viaduct is a relic subject to seismic shifts originating in Alaska, so, yeah, time to replace it with something that won’t topple and threaten thousands of lives whenever tectonic plates shift.  The tunnel alone won’t solve our traffic woes, but it’s a key piece of the puzzle, and a viaduct-free waterfront will provide public gathering spaces we all can enjoy. 

    • TheKing April 3, 2017 (1:40 am)

      Everything in that area of Seattle is subject to seismic shifts, the viaduct is still sinking inch by inch. I am curious if the tunnel is sinking also and that information is being withheld. 

      • Dale April 3, 2017 (6:01 am)

        Apparently, the tunnel is monitored in real time for any settlement. They can inject grout in any voids to alleviate this. 

  • old timer April 3, 2017 (12:26 am)

    We shall see how much of a marvel this tunnel is once it opens.  With no access to or from downtown, and no provision for public transit, this pay per use facility will be a pathway for the entitled, while improving the view for another set of entitled.  Meanwhile, the rest of us will continue to slog thru traffic made even more dense and entangled.   As the state fumbles with foisting the overcharges for this construct upon the City of Seattle,  we await the completion of this “most marvelous” creation, anxious to actually see and count it’s “blessings”, to see where they will fall, and who will actually benefit.

    • WSB April 3, 2017 (1:11 am)

      Since it always comes up … here’s how Highway 99 connects to downtown before the south end of the tunnel, post-tunnel:

      • Mark Schletty April 3, 2017 (8:04 am)

        Wow. Am i reading this map right? It looks like the only way off 99 before the tunnel puts you on Alaskan Way, not on a street east of 99. Who came up with this stupid (if true) idea?  This is going to force everyone going downtown from West Seattle to use 1st or 4th the whole way, instead of getting off 99 prior to the tunnel. Another SDOT plot to screw those of us needing to use cars to get downtown. And transit advocates– don’t tell me to take a bus. Our whole large area of West Seattle has no reasonable bus service.

        • WSB April 3, 2017 (8:13 am)

          This wasn’t an SDOT project. This is a state project. And we’ve been reporting on it every step of the way – WSB readers usually got first word of proposals/developments in the project because for years I covered the advisory committee meetings at which plans were first disclosed (usually not attended by any other media). The map is from the project FAQ page.

 (Click the “How will drivers from west Seattle and south King County get to downtown Seattle?” line.)

          Depending on where you’re going downtown, 4th can be a much better way to get there than taking 99. I sat in that exit line on the bridge for years. 4th seldom has anything like that. We always use it when headed downtown to cover events, many of which tend to require getting in the bridge traffic with everybody else.

          • Mark Schletty April 3, 2017 (11:11 am)

            I usually use 4th now too for the same reason. I just dont think it is going to work well once everyone currently using 99 swithes to it or 1st.  I also know it is a state project. I just think it was SDOT’s job to be sure that there was an important exit o the east side streets for some early, before the tunnel , almost downtown access from 99. What about the people coming from south of us on 99? 

    • Double Dub Resident April 3, 2017 (5:09 am)

      Exactly, this is about the entitled in that area and sold to the rest of us as a safety issue. Now this hot mess is years behind schedule and way over its budget and now Washington lawmakers want to stick us Seattle taxpayers with yet another bill. 

      I’m tired of getting taxed for the stupid I don’t vote for. And this is just another form of a regressive system in which people who can’t afford to pay this stupid toll daily will have to find alternative routes or be SOL. Elitism wrapped in the guise of progress. 

  • K. Davis April 3, 2017 (10:45 am)

    Wow … the willful ignorance/anti-government ranting continues; I guess it always will.  I hope you’re wearing your MAGA cap as you type. 


    I guess I understand those who just will never accept that the tunnel is the best solution to a difficult problem.  All of the other options (from “do nothing” to “new viaduct” to “surface-only”), each of which were bad ideas, have been discussed here ad infinitum.  But the ranting  about how this is a scam to benefit rich property owners is the most stupid … perhaps you feel better screaming that, but jeez, when does reality creep in? 


    We need – must have – a north-south highway as an adjunct to I-5.  Just a simple truth.  An unavoidable truth.  Once you get that point clear, the decision path is pretty easy to get to why the tunnel is a great choice.  That we – the entire city – also gets the benefit of a revitalized waterfront is an ancillary benefit – not the reason for the project.   I understand (and share) the woe caused by the demise of the Seneca St off-ramp … but the new surface options from Alaskan Way will allow entrance to downtown north of Pioneer Square, along with 1st and 4th already in place.  We’ll be fine. 

    • sw April 3, 2017 (11:24 am)

      Thank you for an informed, well-reasoned response.

      The entire purpose of the tunnel is to preserve North-South mobility through the downtown core.  Consider how much has changed downtown since the tunnel option was selected – no one could have foreseen the amount of growth.  Being able to bypass the central downtown area is critical for mobility.

      With regard to exits, views, etc. – people will adapt.  The waterfront without the viaduct will be transformational.  If you’ve ever been down there on a day that it’s closed, you’d be amazed at the quiet.  I doubt residents of PDX or San Francisco would tell you that they wish they had their waterfront freeways back.

  • BlairJ April 3, 2017 (11:26 am)

    Tell that ship in the photograph to bring the Space Needle back!

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