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Officials: Six-month estimate for Bertha repairs was 'optimistic'

The administrator of the Seattle tunnel project says he hopes to hear later this month about a specific plan to repair the massive drilling machine known as Bertha and get her moving again. (WSDOT)

The administrator of the Seattle tunnel project says he hopes to hear later this month about a specific plan to repair the massive drilling machine known as Bertha and get her moving again.

Seattle Tunnel Partners (STP) met Wednesday with Hitachi Zosen, the manufacturer of the drill, to discuss details of the 120-deep hole planned to access the drilling machine, said Todd Trepanier, Washington State Department of Transportation administrator for the project.

"STP has told us that it won't be until later in the month until they will pass that information in a plan," he said.

Bertha stalled after traveling just over 1,000 feet under the Seattle waterfront since mechanical problems forced a shutdown Dec. 7. Crews moved her an additional four feet during experimental restart efforts in late January.

STP project manager Chris Dixon had said it would take six months to repair Bertha, but he also insisted that was an optimistic estimate to set a potential target date for crews to work towards. Trepanier said Thursday he's fine with a longer delay if necessary to get things right.

"As an owner, we don't want to step in and attempt to rush them in any way, because we want their thought process on what needs to be done on this machine to repair it so that it is a very sound machine for the rest of the journey...fully done appropriately," he said.

While Bertha continues sitting, work continues on both ends of the 1.7-mile projects. Crews are constructing a 27-foot-tall sound wall at Jackson and Main and have dumped gravel on the surface around the site of the planned 83-foot diameter pit that will be dug in front of Bertha to control mud and dust.

The digging was originally scheduled to be completed by fall 2014, with the new Highway 99 tunnel slated to open by the end of 2015. But officials say they don't have a new timetable at this point.

Trepanier also said he doesn't know when results of recent archaeological surveys of the area around Bertha will be completed.

About the Author


Josh Kerns is an award winning reporter on KIRO Radio 97.3 FM. He covers everything from May Day riots in Seattle to the latest Boeing news.

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