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Seattle Tunnel Partners: Bertha Won't Be Eating Dirt Again Until Next Year

Gabriel Spitzer

Tunneling beneath downtown Seattle likely won’t resume for almost another year, according to Seattle Tunnel Partners, the company managing the project.

Delays have mounted in repairing Bertha, the tunneling machine that has been at a standstill with damaged parts since December.  

Now Seattle Tunnel Partners says the machine won’t get back to eating dirt until late March of 2015 — nearly seven months later than the most recent assessment from project manager Chris Dixon.

Standing next to the site where crews will sink a shaft to access Bertha, Dixon on Monday said the processes of digging, probing for artifacts and protecting the viaduct have slowed things down.

“All of those things put together has taken more time than we anticipated. Therefore the Sept. 1 date, as I previously stated, was a very optimistic date,” Dixon said.

In fact, the access pit isn’t even expected to be finished until that September date. After that crews will lift parts of the tunneling machine up to the surface for repairs.

Todd Trepanier of the Washington state Department of Transportation says the state is disappointed in the delays. He reiterated his belief that any cost overruns will fall on the contractor, not on taxpayers.

Seattle Tunnel Partners is aiming to have traffic flowing through the new tunnel by November of 2016 — about a year later than the company had planned.

Gabriel Spitzer is a former KNKX reporter, producer and host who covered science and health and worked on the show Sound Effect.