MYNORTHWEST NEWS

Gov. Inslee: Bertha’s breakthrough is ‘historic’

Apr 4, 2017, 6:32 AM | Updated: Dec 19, 2017, 5:26 pm

A concrete-walled pit surrounds a circular, five-foot deep concrete wall where a massive tunnel machine is expected to break through the next day as it completes boring for the State Route 99 highway, Monday, April 3, 2017, under Seattle. Bertha, the machine digging a 1.75 mile tunnel under Seattle to replace a waterfront bridge with an underground roadway, is reaching the end of its journey. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson) Water begins to pour from the base as a massive tunneling machine nears breaking through a five-foot wide concrete wall into the disassembly pit for the State Route 99 highway, Tuesday, April 4, 2017, under Seattle. After tunneling more than 9,000 feet and building an outer tunnel wall as it moved forward, the boring machine finished digging what will be a two-mile, double-decker traffic tunnel to replace the Alaskan Way viaduct, damaged in an earthquake in 2001. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson) A massive tunneling machine breaks through a five-foot wide concrete wall in view of the nearby Space Needle as it completes boring for the State Route 99 highway, Tuesday, April 4, 2017, under Seattle. After tunneling more than 9,000 feet and building an outer tunnel wall as it moved forward, the boring machine finished digging what will be a two-mile, double-decker traffic tunnel to replace the Alaskan Way viaduct, damaged in an earthquake in 2001. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson) Water pours from the base and a cloud of water vapor and concrete dust forms as a massive tunneling machine nears breaking through a five-foot wide concrete wall into the disassembly pit for the State Route 99 highway, Tuesday, April 4, 2017, under Seattle. After tunneling more than 9,000 feet and building an outer tunnel wall as it moved forward, the boring machine finished digging what will be a two-mile, double-decker traffic tunnel to replace the Alaskan Way viaduct, damaged in an earthquake in 2001. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson) Water cascades from the blades of a massive tunneling machine as it breaks through a five-foot wide concrete wall while completing boring for the State Route 99 highway, Tuesday, April 4, 2017, under Seattle. After tunneling more than 9,000 feet and building an outer tunnel wall as it moved forward, the boring machine finished digging what will be a two-mile, double-decker traffic tunnel to replace the Alaskan Way viaduct, damaged in an earthquake in 2001. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson) A pair of workers climb out between cutting blades near the top of a massive tunneling machine after it broke through a five-foot wide concrete wall to complete boring for the State Route 99 highway, Tuesday, April 4, 2017, under Seattle. After tunneling more than 9,000 feet and building an outer tunnel wall as it moved forward, the boring machine finished digging what will be a two-mile, double-decker traffic tunnel to replace the Alaskan Way viaduct, damaged in an earthquake in 2001. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson) A massive tunneling machine breaks through a five-foot wide concrete wall as it completes boring for the State Route 99 highway, Tuesday, April 4, 2017, under Seattle. After tunneling more than 9,000 feet and building an outer tunnel wall as it moved forward, the boring machine finished digging what will be a two-mile, double-decker traffic tunnel to replace the Alaskan Way viaduct, damaged in an earthquake in 2001. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Years after her journey began, the tunneling machine Bertha finally reached her destination Tuesday morning.

Bertha Timeline: From conception to tunnel completion

Bertha began to bore through a concrete wall at the north end of the tunnel near Sixth Avenue and Thomas Street around 11:30 a.m.

According to the Washington State Department of Transportation, the machine’s cutterhead was visible at approximately 11:26 a.m.

“This is a historic moment in our state’s transportation history,” Gov. Jay Inslee said. “Innovation and perseverance are the engines that keep Washington in the forefront. There is still more work ahead but this moment is one worth celebrating.”

Crews will spend the next several days removing steel support braces that stand between Bertha and the interior of the 90-foot-deep disassembly pit. When the braces are gone, crews will drive the machine into its final position and begin cutting it into pieces for removal. As the owner of the machine, Seattle Tunnel Partners will determine which pieces could be salvaged for use on other projects or recycled.

Related: Before Bertha, there were the mysteries of Battery Street

“Today is a major construction milestone in our plan to reclaim Seattle’s waterfront,” Seattle Mayor Ed Murray said. “We are one step closer to taking down the viaduct to make way for a re-imagined waterfront and surrounding downtown neighborhood. We will build a waterfront for pedestrians, transit and sensible car trips without a freeway wall casting a shadow over our vision of a well-connected 21st-century city.”

Bertha had to bust through a 5-foot thick concrete wall at the receiving pit as her 9,270-foot journey came to an end.

The $3.1 billion tunnel project is scheduled to open in 2019, four years behind schedule, according to the Associated Press. Here’s what happens next.

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