One year since Bertha’s final breakthrough
One year ago, with a roar of water and concrete tumbling, the tunneling machine Bertha broke through into the disassembly pit, completing her 1.7-mile journey under downtown Seattle. It was and remains a remarkable engineering achievement.
At the time, Seattle Tunnel Partners was working on the double-deck highway inside the tunnel and had completed about half of the upper roadway deck. Since Bertha’s dramatic breakthrough, the machine has been fully disassembled and crews have finished building the roadways and walls inside the tunnel.
What happened to Bertha?
The machine needed to be removed from the tunnel so crews could finish the tunnel’s roadways. STP spent four months disassembling the machine, cutting it up into pieces small enough to be lifted out by crane. Roughly 8,300 tons of machinery were hauled out of the disassembly pit, to be repurposed or recycled. Approximately 6,850 tons of metal were sent to be recycled, but pieces of Bertha’s signature cutterhead were donated to the Port of Seattle and cutting tools and the machine’s control panel were given to Seattle’s Museum of History and Industry.
Bertha is no longer around but you can relive her breakthrough moment with our drone video:
A year in tunnel progress
Since Bertha placed the last tunnel ring, crews have made great progress on the structures and systems inside. The roadways and walls inside the tunnel are done, with the last of the roadway panels that make up the tunnel’s northbound (lower) deck placed last month. Crews are hard at work installing the electrical, ventilation and other systems that will make the tunnel functional and safe.
At the north and south portals, all signs of Bertha’s support equipment and the large pits that bookended the machine’s journey have disappeared. Crews have covered the launch pit and are preparing to build new city streets and intersections. The disassembly pit at the north end has been covered and the final section of the north operations building is taking shape on the surface.
Other highlights of construction progress since Bertha’s breakthrough:
- April 4, 2017: Tunneling breakthrough, viewed online by more than one million people
- May 3: First piece of Bertha is lifted from the disassembly pit
- May 31: Innovative earthquake-resistant bridge is completed
- Aug. 3 – 14: We hold our first open house to discuss viaduct demolition
- Aug. 23: The final piece of Bertha is lifted from the disassembly pit
- Oct. 20: We fly a drone in the north portal and out the south portal
- Nov. 2: The first panels for the tunnel’s northbound deck arrive in Seattle
- Nov. 25: Milepost 31 closes after six successful years and a virtual library opens
- Jan. 26, 2018: The disassembly pit is covered, completing the transformation of Bertha’s finish line
- Feb. 19: A new contractor, Scarsella Brothers Inc., starts work on the SR 99 Connections Project
- March 15: The last of the 1,152 road panels for the northbound deck goes into place
While the past year has seen impressive progress, there’s still plenty of work left to do. Before the tunnel opens, crews must finish installing the tunnel’s mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems, then test them to ensure they function properly. Stay tuned as we continue to report contractors’ progress building toward the tunnel’s opening, which could happen as early as this fall.