VIDEO: Highway 99 tunneling machine breaks out of the pit

WSDOT posted that miscellaneous tunneling-machine-operations-in-progress video this afternoon to go along with the news that the machine is out of the “access pit” and “is now tunneling in Seattle soil after breaking through the access pit wall late Wednesday. Seattle Tunnel Partners has mined 73 feet and installed 12 concrete tunnel rings since Bertha first moved forward in the pit on Dec. 22. More mining is scheduled to occur this week. Now approaching South Main Street, near Pier 48, Bertha is digging well below the area’s notorious fill soil. The top of the machine is approximately 80 feet below the surface in a mixture of glacially compacted material.” That’s from the newest WSDOT update, which you can read in its entirety here. WSDOT also has set up a new tunnel-machine-tracking page. If all goes well from here, they’re still heading toward a March closure of the Alaskan Way Viaduct “for about two weeks” while tunneling under the structure. Speaking of The Viaduct, WSDOT adds that crews are starting to take apart the big red crane that’s been alongside it during the tunneling-machine-repair process.

20 Replies to "VIDEO: Highway 99 tunneling machine breaks out of the pit"

  • JoAnn January 7, 2016 (4:34 pm)

    Don’t use the word break when you talk about Bertha.

  • Al January 7, 2016 (5:20 pm)

    JoAnn lol. Thats what I thought

  • David January 7, 2016 (5:41 pm)

    That’s a good start. It dug through several feet of solid concrete without overheating or breaking. Not back to simple ‘soil’ (if there is such a thing in Seattle). :)

    The funny thing…EVERY day for the last year we’ve BEEN tunnel…from UW to Northgate mall (in both directions at the same time) for the Link light rail with no issues. No one pays attention of course when everything is going well. So it can be done. The highway 99 machine was just unusually big (biggest ever) while the Link tunnels are just run of the mill standard train tunnel machines.

  • JayDee January 7, 2016 (5:51 pm)

    After a 2-year “hiatus” does anyone remember when the distance Bertha has gone meets the contractual requirement that Bertha’s ownership passes from the manufacturer to the State of Washington?

  • Overthere January 7, 2016 (7:52 pm)

    I wonder if Vegas is taking odds on how far it goes before it breaks again.

  • Leelee January 7, 2016 (8:15 pm)

    Can we look into jaydee’s comment above??

  • WSB January 7, 2016 (8:40 pm)

    I can’t find anything on a couple versions of a search. Will ask WSDOT. – TR

  • Salt Spray January 7, 2016 (9:27 pm)

    My recollection is that the magic number is 1,000 feet.

  • chemist January 7, 2016 (9:41 pm)

    JayDee, in Feb 2014 the Seattle Times’ Lindblom (a West Seattle resident, I believe) wrote “The $80 million drill, stalled near Pioneer Square, remains under warranty from Hitachi-Zosen until it reaches 1,300 feet.” and then in a May 2015 piece updated in October the Seattle Times’ Lindblom wrote “Bertha remains under warranty until 1,500 feet, just before it would dive beneath the old viaduct and pass beneath downtown.”

    • WSB January 7, 2016 (9:46 pm)

      Chemist, I knew you’d find it. I was looking for “ownership,” not “warranty.” But I did already send the question to the project media liaison; should hear back from her tomorrow, and we’ll see whether it’s 1300, 1500, or who knows. – TR

  • chemist January 7, 2016 (9:53 pm)

    I don’t think the state ever owns it under a design build. Maybe we get the scrap when it’s all done, but I bet even that is property of STP to see if they can salvage.

    I did find WSDOT’s website had an update statement about the warranty being the “200th ring” in early December 2013 though. Today they said it moved 73 ft over 12 rings, which puts a ring at a shade over 6 ft. 200 rings would then be ~1,200 ft for the warranty.

  • WestSeattleSteve January 7, 2016 (10:00 pm)

    1500 feet, just before it heads under the viaduct, according to this article. At that point it should be the problem of STP, not WA state. That’s why WADOT went with a design build contract.

  • chemist January 7, 2016 (10:16 pm)

    JayDee, looks like your answer is in the FAQ (STP owns it after warranty and gets the scraps).

    • WSB January 8, 2016 (7:44 am)

      Good morning – WSDOT project spokesperson Laura Newborn answered the question early today: “At 200 rings (which is halfway to the next maintenance stop prior to going under the viaduct), STP makes its final payment to Hitachi. Technically THEY take ownership of the machine. Chris Dixon says the machine remains under warranty until the ‘end of the tunnel drive’.” – TR

  • j January 8, 2016 (9:40 am)

    My info regarding the “scraps” of Bertha is that it will finish the tunnel (we’ll see) then back up dig another small side shoot tunnel and remain there for rest of eternity or until a machine from another horribly orchestrated city council project runs into it.

  • kobdvs January 8, 2016 (10:29 am)

    @j … impressive ignorance. The SR99 project isn’t a city project – it is a state project, WSDOT being the agency running it. But keep ranting against your favorite governmental entity of choice.

    @WestSeattleSteve … design build is the standard delivery method for large infrastructure projects of all sorts – not just this project. Likewise, WSDOT has no ownership of the TBM Bertha … ownership rests solely between Hitachi and STP. That was a deliberate risk management decision WSDOT made.

  • jim January 8, 2016 (10:50 am)

    A comment on the post by “j—“. Bertha cannot “back up and dig another tunnel”. By its nature a Tunnel Boring Machine cannot go backwards, it goes forwards by pushing off the concrete rings that it builds inside the circular shield — that process cannot be reversed.

  • wetone January 8, 2016 (11:47 am)

    Anyone know if there is a hard number today for allowable viaduct “settlement” before it’s deemed not safe ? I know prior to start of project WSDOT had a number and viaduct has gone way past that number.

  • chemist January 8, 2016 (12:42 pm)

    wetone, once they started to talk about different types of twisting/non-twisting settlement and different areas, all those numbers became a blur. I do recall seeing hard numbers about predicted building settlement limits and which group of buildings need mitigation ahead of the operation (google – shannon wilson GBR for AWV for that 2010 report). There’s also an interim report from that same outfit in May 2015 full of data about the readings.

  • j January 8, 2016 (4:12 pm)

    Kobdvs did wsdot come to the city of Seattle and tell us what to do or did the city council determine the tunnel was going to be our best option? I’m more talking about where it originated from.

    I apologize regarding the “backing up” bertha. Maybe it continues forward and hooks aright or left turn. Point being it is reportedly being left underground.

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