Big Bertha might be a giant in the industry, but the tunnel-boring machine has been a big worry from the start for at least one official.
Washington’s Secretary of Transportation, Lynn Peterson, has been expressing her concerns before Bertha began the mammoth task of tunneling for the S.R. 99 project last summer. Construction remains at a standstill as crews attempt to figure out what stalled the cutting equipment on Dec. 6. Peterson sent a letter to lawmakers on Jan. 15 outlining what has caused the unrest and wants Seattle Tunnel Partners (STP) to explain how it will address the problem.
In the meantime, a group of experts were checking out the problem firsthand—at the 57-ft cutting face—to see if an ironclad solution could be generated. A steel pipe is believed to be part of the cause, but Peterson also wants to know why the machine was operating at extremely high temperatures before the operation locked up in early December. STP also is being encouraged to come up with a way to make up for all the time that is being lost due to the work stoppage.
Peterson’s letter also stated that WSDOT could not tell what STP can do because the agency could be liable for increased costs and responsibility.