VIDEO: Highway 99 tunnel machine breaks through access-pit wall

11:39 AM: If you’ve been on the Alaskan Way Viaduct this morning and noticed a dust cloud – the Highway 99 tunneling machine is “preparing to break through” the wall of its repair pit, according to a Twitter update a few minutes ago. Earlier this morning, WSDOT published a web update saying the machine had moved 14 of the 20 feet it needs to go to break into its repair pit. It had warned that they expected the machine to overheat and have to stop down, but aside from a stopdown reported last night so other work could be done in the pit, there’s been no word of that happening. WSDOT says it’s switched the pit camera to more frequent updates – every five minutes – so you can check in here (left-center frame).

12:44 PM: And while we were away from the desk for a bit:

Online, WSDOT adds:

This is just the beginning of the repair effort being led by Seattle Tunnel Partners and manufacturer Hitachi Zosen. The machine will continue to move forward in 6 ½ foot increments, stopping to build rings on its way into the pit. When the front end of the machine is fully exposed, crews will begin the disassembly process. STP has told us that taking the machine apart and lifting it to the surface will take significant time and effort.

ADDED 5:22 PM: WSDOT offers this video including the first glimpse of the machine’s cutterhead (most visible around 1:15 in):

29 Replies to "VIDEO: Highway 99 tunnel machine breaks through access-pit wall"

  • AmandaKH February 19, 2015 (12:02 pm)

    That would explain the helicopter hovering over my office building….

  • cj February 19, 2015 (12:06 pm)

    Bertha lives! Now I have The Doors “Break on Through” in my head. I have to wonder though of the recent not too far away earthquake helped motivate them. :P

  • Joan Miller February 19, 2015 (12:56 pm)

    Time to pull Bertha out and quit this project!

  • ForPitsSake February 19, 2015 (1:14 pm)

    Time for a pity party!!

  • schwaggy February 19, 2015 (1:24 pm)

    How will they build the rings of the tunnel in the location of the pit. Do they fill it all back in? Seems unstable.

  • helridge February 19, 2015 (1:26 pm)


  • miws February 19, 2015 (1:27 pm)

    Just got Home about 40 minutes ago, after 3 hours away, and in my Inbox was “Breaking News!” from the Seattle Times. What was visible on the I/B Page, was something like; “Bertha Breaks….”


    Hafta admit, my first thought was glass half empty, that she’d broken down again, but then realized just before I was about to actually open the e-m’s, that maybe….just maybe, the rest of the Headline was actually; “….Through…”. ;-)



  • Miles February 19, 2015 (1:29 pm)

    Quit this project??? It’s not a project, it’s progress and we as a community should be proud to live in a city/state that unlike many US city/states are shutting down any chance of infrastructure like this being built (Christie’s ax on the NY/NJ tunnel for instance)

    Why don’t we just all go off the grid and see what happens. Progress costs and what will be gained with the new waterfront will be magnificent and will bring in major tourism dollars.

    This tunnel is happening folks……

  • Christopher Boffoli February 19, 2015 (1:35 pm)

    Hooray. I’m delighted to see this audacious, technically challenging, engineering marvel making progress toward a repair.

  • JoB February 19, 2015 (2:18 pm)

    it ain’t over till the fat lady sings…

  • wetone February 19, 2015 (3:16 pm)

    Miles, your exactly right it is great for tourism and Investment firms, but how about the people that live in the Seattle area that will be “stuck” paying for all the cost overruns and infrastructure rebuilds from damages caused by this project ? along with the many traffic issues it will bring to people who can’t afford the extra $80-$100 a month in tolls for daily commute. I sure find it interesting that four city counsel members are not running again hummm. Some things must not be going as good as the people of Seattle are being led to believe……

  • T Rex February 19, 2015 (3:22 pm)

    I am still laughing at the fact that Bertha has a twitter account.

  • marty February 19, 2015 (3:29 pm)

    The best Bertha Twitter account is stuckbertha

  • KBear February 19, 2015 (3:36 pm)

    Wetone, what cost overruns? There aren’t any yet.

  • JayDee February 19, 2015 (3:46 pm)

    Dear Nattering Nabobs of Negativism:

    Bertha broke down for some reason in one of the few places we could reach her (whether through bad operation, well casing for flossing, or bad design, or bad luck).

    Bertha has a long way to go, so conserve your venom if she gets stuck under, let’s say, Benaroya.

    But for now, save your powder and remember, revenge is a dish best served cold.

    I say: “Go Bertha, Go!”

  • miles February 19, 2015 (4:07 pm)

    Wetone, I live in the Seattle area with pleasure and expect to pay for these type of infrastructure issues. At what point in history did these needed improvements become getting “stuck??” Life goes on and if you can’t adapt to change/progress you, my friend will be one unhappy camper in life. This may become a toll road, but I haven’t read specifics on that, but I do know tolls are and always have been a common way to fund transit improvements.

    And I am not being lead to believe anything, thank you.
    And, I am kind of fat, but I don’t know how to sing……

    • WSB February 19, 2015 (4:50 pm)

      First look at the machine as its cutterhead came into view (video provided by WSDOT, we cued the link to the appearance):

  • sam-c February 19, 2015 (5:08 pm)

    Drove by (on the viaduct) to and from a meeting around 12:30 and 3:30, and saw all the dust. Assumed what was happening..exciting. Hope she doesn’t get stuck again.

  • Surface street option February 19, 2015 (6:13 pm)

    City council members are jumping ship as this tunnel project evolves into a money pit. Cut our losses and get out now.

  • jj February 19, 2015 (6:29 pm)

    Destined for failure, turn it into bar. Happy Hour at the Bertha, screwdrivers half price

  • Julie February 19, 2015 (7:11 pm)

    Hurray! Progress. Worth it.

  • Curtis February 19, 2015 (7:29 pm)

    The Council Members are leaving because the process to get elected to the council has changed. Moving on……. This tunnel is happening whether anyone wants to stop it or not so why not root for a good outcome and cheer today’s event? Bertha had not gone far enough to be the City’s responsibility. She will be repaired by her manufacturer and her contractor because she is UNDER WARRANTY. We should all be breathing a sigh of relief that things went so well today.

  • Bertha DeBlues (@BerthaDeBlues) February 19, 2015 (8:19 pm)

    Boy, a bunch of you are real Negative Nancies. To those that aren’t, thanks. You guys rock.

    BTW, I have several Twitter accounts, and I humbly and with no personal stake in it whatsoever suggest that “BerthaDeBlues” is the best one. Certainly my favorite, anyway.


  • dbf February 19, 2015 (9:58 pm)

    Happy taxing y’all… A new expressway for those that can afford. While the rest of us sniveling workers gotta get on the 5 to get through. Imagine if they tolled the street in front of your house… 5 bucks to go to grocery store, 5 bucks to get to daycare, 5 bucks to get to doctor. A levy pays for particular project, a toll is forever.

  • dbf February 19, 2015 (10:11 pm)

    Saw a story bout G.W. bridge in NJ. Started tolls low to pay for bridge, now 83 years later, $10-14 each way.

  • max February 20, 2015 (12:12 pm)

    It makes people feel better to complain about Bertha and cost overruns, etc. Snark, grumble, etc.

    I support this project because we’re getting an improvement over the status quo. Others disagree, which is great for them. But there was no better option (not rebuilding the viaduct, or cut and cover tunnel and especially not the thoroughly silly surface-only option). The project will get built and we’ll all adjust to the new reality without the viaduct. I’ll not get to use Seneca anymore, but I will use the rebuilt/widened Alaskan Way to access downtown. And when I need to go north through the tunnel, I’ll pay the toll, because that’s what adults in civilized world do – they adjust and deal.

  • John H February 20, 2015 (5:56 pm)

    I appreciate these videos, but sometimes the quality is very amateur-ish. The moment the concrete wall falls is for some reason not shown, images that you can’t really see anything useful, other video sequences that make no sense to show, etc. With the amount of $$ spent on this project I would expect a bit better . . . PR is everything for this project.

Sorry, comment time is over.