Sound Stories. Sound Voices.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
You are on the KUOW archive site. Click here to go to our current site.
00000181-fa79-da89-a38d-fb7f2a000000Bertha, the world's biggest tunneling machine, is a five-story-tall monstrosity of drilling tasked with digging out the tunnel for State Route 99 to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct. It's journey to the center of the earth underneath downtown Seattle began in July 2013, and since then the project has seen its fair share of successes and failures.Follow the progress of the $3 billion megaproject with KUOW.

Boring Bertha: State Doubts New Dates For Tunnel Opening

This July 2015 photo shows the SR 99 tunneling machine’s main bearing encircled by the gear ring that facilitates rotation of the cutterhead.
Washington State Department of Transportation
/
The highway 99 tunneling project has been stalled since February 2014. Above, the main bearing for the giant boring machine known as Bertha.

Bertha, the giant tunnel boring machine stalled in downtown Seattle, remains in pieces at the foot of the Alaskan Way Viaduct.

Chris Dixon, project leader for Seattle Tunnel Partners, which oversees the project, is confident Bertha will restart Nov. 23. And he says the tunnel will be open to cars in 2018.

But another person isn't so confident in these dates.

“We are disappointed in the delay,” said Todd Trepanier of the Washington State Department of Transportation. “You are not hearing confidence from WSDOT with those milestone dates."

That's because the timeline keeps changing. The original plan was for the tunnel to be finished this December.

As for guarantees that there will be a functioning tunnel, Trepanier said that wasn’t up to the state.

But Dixon asked the public to bear with him. “We still do believe that (Seattle Tunnel Partners) is going to complete this project,” he said.

“We’re doing things here that haven’t been done before. We think it’s better to take more time and do it right than to try to do it in a shorter time and run the risk of getting something wrong.”

The plan now is for Bertha to be reassembled and moving into a testing phase by early this fall.