'Bertha' to Start Digging to Replace Seattle's Alaskan Way Viaduct
"Bertha," named after Seattle's first female mayor, will soon start digging tunnels to replace the city's iconic highway that was destroyed by a disaster more than ten years ago.
For more than ten years, Seattle has contemplated the future of the Alaskan Way Viaduct -- an iconic, elevated highway that skirts downtown along Puget Sound.
The structure was damaged by a 2001 earthquake, and for much of the 2000s, Seattle debated whether a new elevated structure should be erected or if it made more sense to send traffic through an underground tunnel instead. Officials concluded it would be more cost-effective to replace it than to repair it and voters approved the tunnel plan in 2011.
This summer, "Bertha," a 7,000-ton tunnel boring machine, is set to finally make that tunnel a reality when she starts clawing through dirt 80 feet beneath the earth's surface. With a diameter of 57.5 feet, it's the world's largest machine of its type. It was affectionately named after Bertha Knight Landes, the city's first female mayor.
The machine was built in Japan and transported by ship to Seattle earlier this year. Today, crews are working to re-assemble Bertha inside the launch pit where she'll begin cutting her pathway in mid-July, says Matt Preedy, the state's deputy program administrator for the tunnel project.
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