Bertha tunneling machine starts slow dig toward access pit for repairs

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Bertha must tunnel through the wall of this 120-foot-deep pit, where workers will be able to start the process of fixing the machine. (Photo: WSDOT)

SEATTLE (AP) — Bertha is on the move. Slowly, but on the move.

The broken down tunnel machine began its journey toward an access pit where, if it makes it, workers will remove the front of the machine for repairs. It started moving at 7 a.m. on Wednesday and by the afternoon it had moved 6 feet. Bertha must travel another 14 feet to reach the pit. It must tunnel through the pit’s 20-foot concrete wall.

Seattle Tunnel Partners says it does not know how long the process will take. If the machine gets too hot, they will shut it down to cool before resuming.

Bertha only made it about 1,000 feet in its 2-mile trip to build a tunnel as part of the Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement Project. It overheated and stopped working in December 2013.

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4 comments

  • The World is Ending

    Did it have any warranty? Was there a flaw in the manufacturing or workmanship? If so I would say that the company that made it is atleast partly responsible for the cost, but this is government where a contractor can totally screw up a project and not only get paid for the project but then paid again to fix all of his original screw ups, and then paid again if he screws up again.

    • SerenityNow

      Yes, Bertha has a warranty with Hitachi-Zosen that would have be void had the TBM dug 1200 feet. The design-builder stopped the machine at 1100 to avoid voiding the warranty. The fact that over 50 tons of reinforcing streel is being added to Berha to make the machine more rigid indicates (at least to me) that the design did not adequately account for the conditions. The design-builder will likely sue both the Berha manufactuer (Hitachi), and try to file claim against the State as well.

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