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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

State Will Resume Tunneling Under Downtown (for Reasons as Mysterious as Why They Stopped)

Posted by on Tue, Jan 28, 2014 at 9:06 AM

When WSDOT posted this image on January 7, they explained, On Jan. 5, 2014, crews started drilling 5-foot-diameter metal shafts in front of the Bertha, the SR 99 tunneling machine. These shafts are being installed where earlier probing detected metal in front of the machine. The plan is to further identify the limits of any metal in front of the machine and remove as much of the metal as possible. Now that tunneling begins again, the state still doesnt report finding any metal or obstructions.
  • WSDOT
  • When WSDOT posted this image on January 7, officials explained, "On Jan. 5, 2014, crews started drilling 5-foot-diameter metal shafts in front of the Bertha, the SR 99 tunneling machine. These shafts are being installed where earlier probing detected metal in front of the machine. The plan is to further identify the limits of any metal in front of the machine and remove as much of the metal as possible." Now that tunneling begins again, the state still doesn't report finding any metal or obstructions.

The Washington State Department of Transportation announced on its website last night that after nearly seven weeks of being stalled, Bertha, their cutesy name for a tunnel-boring machine, will resume churning through earth later this week. What was in her way? Why was she stopped? Did the various inspections reveal what the problem was? They don't say:

Seattle Tunnel Partners is expecting to restart operations of the SR 99 tunneling machine this week.

Crews will finish inspections of the excavation chamber and cutterhead by the morning of Tuesday, Jan. 28. This will mark the completion of the hyperbaric intervention work at this time. As of Sunday evening, Jan. 26, crews had performed 36 hyperbaric interventions, totaling 134 hours over 10 days...

While we understand the interest in knowing the reasons why mining was stopped in December, it will take time to review the results of the hyperbaric interventions and consult with tunneling experts advising WSDOT. We will continue to provide the public with information as we have it and work with the contractor to ensure that the machine is ready to begin mining under downtown Seattle.

Regular updates will be provided this week when new information is available.

This was not a cheap delay. Yesterday I posted a massive document that accounted for the project's estimated schedules and costs. One Slog reader named psbirch calculated that the cost per business day on this project was about $252,424. (For their part, WSDOT spokespeople deny that daily cost, but they have yet to provide an alternative cost per day.)

Regardless of the exact cost, IT WAS DAMN EXPENSIVE TO KEEP THAT MACHINE DOWN THERE DOING NOTHING, never mind the additional costs of drilling massive shafts for soil inspection and hyperbaric work to investigate the problem. So even after these expensive delays, the state still is not saying what brought Bertha to a halt. They don't report finding any obstructions. Perhaps they'll reveal what the problem was in the future, or, more concerning, maybe the state doesn't know.

 

Comments (15) RSS

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1
So it'll be real tough to call the winner of the office pool on "what's blocking Bertha" ? Way to ruin the most fun the public has had speculating on a WSDOT project in decades.
Posted by ChefJoe on January 28, 2014 at 9:21 AM · Report this
fletc3her 2
The simple narrative is they hit a pipe, it damaged the machine, they checked out front for any other obstructions, replaced all the damaged bits, and are going again. It just took a hell of a long time to do all that.

I imagine they also had someone combing over a mountain of documents to find out whether any other obstructions were unaccounted for. Perhaps they were waiting for that work to complete.

Perhaps they also took advantage of the stoppage to do a complete top to bottom inspection of the machine before the warranty ran out.

Or, perhaps an interpreter who speaks Clamasaurus had to be flown in from the Lost World.
Posted by fletc3her on January 28, 2014 at 9:41 AM · Report this
3
First Rule of Bore Hole Club:

What happens in the hole stays in the hole.
Posted by You met me at a very strange time in my life. on January 28, 2014 at 9:42 AM · Report this
4
Who made Bertha, Hitachi wasn't it? I find it inconceivable that a custom-built piece of gear like that wouldn't have a couple of engineers either assigned to it or following its workings with great interest.

Find a Japanese-speaker versed in Google-foo and engineer-speak, and try to find and interview the engineers back in Japan. World's largest tunneling machine? I'm sure this was reported in one or another technical newsletter. I note that long distance rates to Japan are 3-cents/minute via Google Voice.
Posted by Brooklyn Reader on January 28, 2014 at 9:45 AM · Report this
rob! 5
Wouldn't there be non-disclosure provisions in the contract between STP and Hitachi Zosen, so there's no premature disclosure of information that might hurt HZ's future business? And if so, wouldn't WSDOT as a third party be extremely limited in what they could either learn or make public themselves?
Posted by rob! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QZBdUceCL5U on January 28, 2014 at 9:55 AM · Report this
6
Maybe the contractor STP need to provide the explanaiton, since they are the ones operating the machine, and not WSDOT bureaucrats.

Oh, that's right. They aren't talking to the press. But the Stranger uncritically gives them a free pass. Even the Times isn't doing that.
Posted by hmmmmm on January 28, 2014 at 9:59 AM · Report this
7
WSDOT's public information black-out curtain around this project is indeed troubling.
Posted by Citizen R on January 28, 2014 at 10:14 AM · Report this
somedude 8
Why would they say a lot publicly if they have reason to believe that the delay might result in litigation and public statements could hurt the state's position in court? Not disclosing a lot of information to the public very well might be in the public's best interest if it results in financial compensation from some third party. Or we could just say screw all that, I've got an office pool to win :D
Posted by somedude http://vimeo.com/76792326 on January 28, 2014 at 10:20 AM · Report this
Indighost 9
What's the worst possible explanation? It was blocked by an ancient alien spaceship and...I dunno, it was dug up and sent to the Pentagon? I don't get what all the hoopla is about. (I don't live in Seattle).
Posted by Indighost on January 28, 2014 at 11:15 AM · Report this
Will in Seattle 10
There is no way they can finish this without a massive Seattle property tax
Posted by Will in Seattle http://www.facebook.com/WillSeattle on January 28, 2014 at 11:15 AM · Report this
Joe Szilagyi 11
Please tell me you guys have already filed public records requests.
Posted by Joe Szilagyi http://twitter.com/joeszi on January 28, 2014 at 11:25 AM · Report this
12
@10, Where did you think the Port of Seattle's $300 million "contribution" was going to come from ? Charging customers more or using the existing taxing authority ?
http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/News/2013/08/06_…
Posted by ChefJoe on January 28, 2014 at 12:43 PM · Report this
13
Goldy wins.
Posted by tacky on January 28, 2014 at 2:26 PM · Report this
Chef Thunder 14
I thought I heard on NPR this morning (it was early I was tired...) that they are only going 2 additional feet to complete this section.

am I mistaken?
Posted by Chef Thunder on January 28, 2014 at 6:25 PM · Report this
15
Timmy, you say Seattle Times reporter Mike Lindblom "needs to grow some" So if true, that speaks volumes about the Seattle Times attitude in putting a rookie on THIS reporting job!! Does that say Times is being " in bed/cahoots" with the STP and the WSDOT?? So Seatle Times doesn't put their VERY BEST reportingon THE biggest THE most expensive, project in Seattle history?? ALSO you notice Governor Inslee!! was making "a LOT of Bertha noise when it was about the Longshoreman vs Bertha issue -- but all this long EIGHT weeks stoppage and Inslee is mute!! IS strangely -- SILENT! NOT a word from him or the new mayor for hat matter
Posted by ru on January 28, 2014 at 9:56 PM · Report this

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