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From jeers to cheers for Bertha

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Bertha punched through as much criticism as rock in 2016


Let’s give Bertha the credit she (and all of the humans involved) deserve while they are taking a break since December 21, a well deserved break.

This time last year, Bertha was in her repair vault. After running into a bit of a bother with a pipe that necessitated digging down to the digging machine, the tunneler was finally ready to go. Her troubles made national news. People dreamed up schemes for what to put in the tunnel if the project was abandoned.

Getting started again wasn’t easy. Problems with a barge, and then a troubling sinkhole provided more fodder for people making fun of the project. Stop work orders and suspensions weren’t so funny. Overruns exceeding $200M definitely weren’t and aren’t funny.

Now, Bertha is past the deepest point, has completed over 70% of the digging, and has less than 2,500 feet to go before reaching the exit pit near Seattle Center. In 2016, she traveled over a mile, 5,700 feet. She’s still down there, 160 feet beneath Third Avenue. She’s been tunneling through the remains of Denny Hill, the land created when Seattle leveled a hill is now getting a hole cored through it. (Feel sorry for that tortured dirt.)

With 6,787 of 9,270 feet complete, the end is near, but not assumed or trivialized. It’s tough work in a tough environment. If all goes well, she’ll complete the tunneling in 2017 and we’ll get to drive through it in 2019.

The next time you contemplate a long commute, consider Bertha’s: from Pioneer Square in July 2013 to Seattle Center in 2017 (hopefully). Let’s see, that would be 6.5 feet per day and just about 0.00005 miles per hour. Talk about patience. Congratulations on that, too.

For updates, check out WSDOT’s page, or follow @BerthaDigsSR99 on Twitter.