It’s the end of an era: Bertha, the much-maligned tunnel-boring machine that drilled the State Route 99 Viaduct replacement tunnel, has officially completely come apart.
Seattle Tunnel Partners (STP) removed the final piece of the tunnel-boring machine from the disassembly pit near Seattle Center on Wednesday morning, raising an American flag in salute to the moment.
The tunnel-boring machine, the largest of its kind in the world, had finished digging the tunnel this past April. The machine fully emerged into the pit later that month.
At the time, the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) said it could take up to five months to dismantle the drill, and it’s been about four, technically putting the drill ahead of schedule for the second time in its life: It was technically ahead of some updated estimates when it broke through.
Because the drill was five stories tall and weighed 8,000 tons, it took many lifts—at least 35—to get the machine out of the pit. The largest single lift was 70 tons.
Manufacturer Hitatchi Zosen will decide what to do with many of Bertha’s remains, although WSDOT confirms that the steel cutterhead was taken to a local steel recycler. Some pieces of the cutterhead were donated to the Port of Seattle and some cutting tools and the control panel were donated to the Museum of History and Industry.
The whole project remains years behind schedule—the project’s initial completion estimate was December 2015, but project delays, including a two-year halt for repairs that let the drill stuck in place from December 2013 through December 2015, have pushed the completion date back a few years.
The Alaskan Way Viaduct will come down after the tunnel opens to traffic—likely in early 2019. WSDOT recently completed an online open house about the demolition process and expects to have more information on the process sometime in 2018.
Meanwhile, crews have been building the tunnel behind the drill for quite some time, even before its run was completed. The tunnel’s southbound roadways and northbound walls, for example, are already more than three-quarters of the way done.
Even before the tumultuous journey of the machine, the tunnel project was a point of political contention, with many alternative transportation activists pushing for a surface-street option with transit accommodations.
Cost overruns for the project totaled more than $200 million as of last year.
Watch a time-lapse video of Bertha’s entire disassembly below.