Two-week viaduct closure coming as Bertha tunnels underneath

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SEATTLE -- Get ready for a major, two-week closure of the Alaskan Way Viaduct -- and the traffic that’s sure to result.

The Bertha tunneling machine is about to start boring under the aging roadway, and the Washington State Department of Transportation says the long closure is a precaution in case something goes wrong.

No specific dates have been set for the shutdown, but the disruption is expected to happen within the next month.

Ever since Bertha created that huge sinkhole along the waterfront earlier this year, WSDOT has been hovering over the tunnel contractor like a hawk, to make sure that all the problems have been fixed.  The state now says Bertha is ready to proceed under its first major structure, and is assuring the public that the viaduct will be OK.

“They have strengthened it using carbon fiber wrap and they have reinforced the foundation with micropiles,” said Todd Trepanier of WSDOT.  “Those preventative measures are adequate in our observation for them to be able to tunnel underneath the viaduct with any consequence.”

Given the recent viaduct traffic jam nightmare, from an overturned semi full of crab, officials say they are preparing the public now for the two-week closure.

“Traffic is going to be worse during the commute,” said Scott Kubly, director of the Seattle Department of Transportation.   “I would just encourage people that if they have alternate times that they can make their trip or alternate routes they can take or alternate locations they can go to, I would encourage them to do that.

About 60,000 cars using the viaduct each day.  Part of that will be absorbed by increased transit service and detours.