Bertha not moving, blockage cause still unknown

Bertha-stoppedSEATTLE — Bertha, the world’s largest drill, has been stopped in its tracks, 80-feet below Seattle, for a month and a half. And no one can answer why.

Crews are still working to create a new road and hammer out what will be a two story building that will house the control center for the underground tunnel. But so far, that tunnel extends just over 1,000 feet, about one-tenth of its projected 1.7 mile trip.

The enormous drill remains stalled since the warning lights went on in December. Matt Preedy, a deputy administrator with the Washington Department of Transportation, compares it to the ‘check engine’ light going off in your car.

“It doesn’t mean something is wrong,” said Preedy. “It means you should probably stop, and look, and see if there is something wrong.”

Over the last week, crews have been looking carefully, lowered down into the space just around Bertha’s cutting head. It’s called a hyperbaric inspection. They found a 3 and a half foot obstruction that is certainly causing problems for Bertha, but the chief reason the massive drill is stuck is still a mystery.

“Today we haven`t really found anything substantial, but we can`t really speculate much on how much longer it may take,” said Preedy.

The drill is apparently in good working order but WSDOT says it won’t move an inch until they know exactly what the problem is.

6 comments

  • holdeninwa

    The ineptitude of the #statusquo gives #ThePeopleOfWA another #tragedy. Perhaps it's time to replace #WSDOT's leadership with folk- perhaps even #PeopleOfColor- who actually are qualified in engineering? Wasn't the blockage already known from years ago? This is the era of transparency- it's no longer a world where idiocy & outright incompetence can continue being rewarded. What's #Inslee doin'… hoping the problem fixes itself?

  • rujr

    Imagine. There was an artist’s rendition of the completed tunnel in the Seattle Times. It shows, there will be only two narrow lanes of traffic in each direction in the tunnel. Compared with three lanes of traffic in each direction on the viaduct. NO HOV LANE in the tunnel. There will be a very small space off to one side of the two narrow lanes, barely enough room for an emergency vehicle. Brilliant.

  • rujr

    The big reason, supposedly, in the beginning, for this whole/hole big tunnel project was ostensibly, a great concern for us the public about predicted gigantic 9 point earthquake. That was "put out there" as the primacy for tearing down viaduct. We are to think gigantic earthquake scenario fares well with a world's deepest tunnel? Will we be left down in the deep tunnel in the gigantic 9 point earthquake? Preferable to experience the gigantic 9 point earthquake in the deep tunnel? Renowned, respected engineers said they could have retrofitted the current viaduct to make it fare better than the tunnel in the gigantic earthquake (being predicted). But Seattle does not think that way –IT WAS SEATTLE CITY that wanted tunnel — the state originally wanted another elevated roadway!! Seattle would never think, of course not of the retrofit of current viaduct because that was the LEAST expensive option, and, well, for Seattle sensibilities, the least GLAMOROUS option. Seattle just HAS to have something special DEEPEST IN THE WORLD,etc MOST EXPENSIVE (just wait and see, $$$$) OH, and that special waterfront view….???IT WILL BE ALL BLOCKED SOON BY HIGH RISE HIGH TAX CONDOS!! We have more waterfront view with the viaduct tan there will ever be again!! and that special "world's deepest"… so what if it costs?, huh, 14?? billion…with huge cost overruns –watch for WAY more cost overruns here than in Boston's Big Dig…Seattle's overruns will be BIGGER, MORE SPECIAL! (of course…deepest and biggest.)

  • Dave

    Hello, can anyone hear me? The only thing on the front side of Big Bertha are the cutting heads, dirt, rocks, and a lot of steel debris. Such as an old freight railcar that was buried many years ago. Surely the seals are not located on the front side of the cutting head. The engineers wont admit this because they didn't plan on steel to have to remove. Big Bertha needs a baby Bertha that eats steel. You could possibly cut a side tunnel through the newly laid out wall and go around the cutting head to get to the front. But, is there enough room to do that kind of work. Coming from the top or street level, and removing the freight car would be too visible. I think that cutting a door in the cutting head is the best solution. Then rotate the head where access to remove steel is needed. Can anyone hear me?

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