Press

Press Room

Below are resources for members of the media seeking information or interviews about the Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement Program.

Latest program news

  • April 21 project update: Bertha reaches her final resting spot

    With one last push from her thrust jacks, Bertha came to rest today in her final position within the disassembly pit near Seattle Center. Seattle Tunnel Partners began slowly moving the tunneling machine forward on April 13. You can watch the machine’s progress into the pit by scrolling back through the disassembly pit time-lapse camera.
     
    A crew member holding balloons in front of the TBM sitting in the disassembly pit
     

    Nowhere to go but up (and out)

     
    With Bertha’s movement complete, crews will begin disassembling and cutting the machine into pieces for removal. Some pieces will be lifted from the disassembly pit by crane, while others will be taken out south through the tunnel. A new fact sheet in our Program Library gives a brief overview of what this work entails.
     
    As Bertha moved into the disassembly pit, crews also began removing infrastructure within the tunnel that supported tunneling. More than 20 miles of pipe has to be removed, as well as the yellow ventilation duct and the conveyor belt.
     

    Video: Bertha's final push 

     
    While the time-lapse camera linked above captures the view from above the disassembly pit, this video provides an on-the-ground perspective. Watch a condensed time-lapse of Bertha's two-week move into the disassembly pit (with a pause for a group photo of the workers who built the tunnel).  
     
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  • April 13 project update: Bertha's next move

    Seattle Tunnel Partners began moving Bertha, the SR 99 tunneling machine, into the disassembly pit this morning. Crews began pushing the machine forward at approximately 9 a.m. this morning and have completed building ring 1,419.
     
    In the coming weeks, the machine will move forward approximately 80 feet before coming to rest in its final position. Along the way it will build the final rings of the tunnel, as well as a short section of temporary partial rings that the machine will use to push itself forward in the pit.
     
    Once the machine is in place, crews will begin cutting the machine into pieces and removing them from the pit. Some parts may be salvaged for use on other projects, while other parts will be recycled.
     
    Brace removal
     
    Crews spent the past several days cleaning the pit and removing the braces from the wall Bertha bored through on April 4. The time-lapse video below shows crews removing the braces.
     
     
    We’ll continue to provide progress updates on our breakthrough page and on Twitter.

     

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  • Recapping Bertha's breakthrough

    Bertha's 9,270-foot journey beneath Seattle ended in dramatic fashion on Tuesday as the machine broke through into her disassembly pit near Seattle Center:

     

    On Tuesday morning all that stood between Bertha and daylight was the five-foot-thick concrete wall at the south end of the disassembly pit. Crews from Seattle Tunnel Partners began mining around 8 a.m. on Tuesday and broke through shortly before noon.
     
     
    WSDOT shared updates from the scene on Twitter, Facebook and Periscope, and hosted a livestream. (Roughly a half million people tuned into WSDOT's web channels to watch breakthrough, and another one million watched the livestream via local news outlets.)

     

    What comes next?

    In the coming weeks, STP will remove the braces in the disassembly pit and move Bertha into her final position in the pit. You can watch that work on the Bertha's Breakthrough page. The machine will be taken apart and removed from the tunnel.

    There is much work left to be done before the tunnel opens to traffic, currently scheduled for early 2019. Our recent program spotlight explains the interior structures and tunnel systems work that cres have already begun. 

    We will be transitioning the Bertha's Breakthrough page in the coming weeks to a page that tracks this progress. As always, follow the program Twitter feed and this website for updates on the work to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct.
     
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  • Bertha breaks through: SR 99 tunneling machine emerges near Seattle Center

    Work continues inside the tunnel as crews work toward early 2019 opening 
     
    A year ago, SR 99 tunnel crews were about to face their biggest challenge: a trip beneath the Alaskan Way Viaduct they were working to replace. Today, with the viaduct and more than 9,270 feet of new tunnel safely behind them, there was nothing left to face but daylight as the SR 99 tunneling machine chewed its way into a pit near Seattle Center.
     
    Bertha’s 1.7-mile drive beneath Seattle came to a successful end Tuesday afternoon, 64 years to the day since the viaduct first opened to traffic. Led by the Washington State Department of Transportation, and designed and built by contractor Seattle Tunnel Partners, the tunnel project will move a two-mile section of SR 99 underground when it wraps up in early 2019. Crews will then demolish the viaduct, clearing the way for the city’s new waterfront.
     
    “This is a historic moment in our state’s transportation history,” Gov. Jay Inslee said. “Innovation and perseverance are the engines that keep Washington in the forefront. There is still more work ahead but this moment is one worth celebrating.”
     
    Crews will spend the next several days removing steel support braces that stand between Bertha and the interior of the 90-foot-deep disassembly pit. When the braces are gone, crews will drive the machine into its final position and begin cutting it into pieces for removal. As owner of the machine, the contractor will determine which pieces could be salvaged for use on other projects or recycled.
     
    “We were always confident that we would successfully complete the tunnel drive,” Seattle Tunnel Partners Project Manager Chris Dixon said. “The dedication and commitment of everyone on the Seattle Tunnel Partners team has been exceptional, and we wouldn’t be at this milestone without the hard work of our crews. We look forward to continuing this outstanding progress through project completion.”
     
    STP still has significant work to complete before the tunnel opens. Crews must finish building the double-deck highway within the circular walls that were built by crews inside the tunneling machine. Mechanical and electrical systems, plumbing and safety features also must be installed.
     
    Even as crews are installing these systems, crews will begin the extensive task of testing and commissioning the tunnel to ensure it’s ready for traffic. Inspectors will individually test more than 8,500 separate components before testing each of the tunnel’s various systems as a whole.
     
    “This truly is a remarkable feat of engineering,” Transportation Secretary Roger Millar said. “We've had delays and there’s still work to be done, but the individuals working on this job should be proud of this accomplishment.” 
     
    Over the next several years, the City of Seattle’s Waterfront Seattle project will build new public space and a surface boulevard in the place of the double-deck viaduct, which is scheduled for demolition in 2019.
       
    “Today is a major construction milestone in our plan to reclaim Seattle’s waterfront,” Seattle Mayor Ed Murray said. “We are one step closer to taking down the viaduct to make way for a reimagined waterfront and surrounding downtown neighborhood. We will build a waterfront for pedestrians, transit and sensible car trips without a freeway wall casting a shadow over our vision of a well-connected 21st century city.”
     
    King County Metro will continue to rely on SR 99 to route buses to Seattle after the tunnel opens, said King County Executive Dow Constantine.
     
    “The new tunnel will provide fast, reliable travel for transit and freight past downtown traffic, and reunite the city with its waterfront,” said Constantine. “The breakthrough highlights what we can accomplish when we think big, act boldly, and embrace the 'can-do' tradition of our region.”
     
    Port of Seattle Commission Commissioner Courtney Gregoire said the tunnel will work with the new waterfront surface street to accommodate freight traffic. 
     
    “This Alaskan Way route is essential to a strong port and linking our industrial lands between SODO and Ballard,” Gregoire said. “Strong, vibrant transportation connections are essential to keep our economy growing and creating middle-class jobs.”
     
    Background on tunneling machine repairs
     
    Manufactured in Japan by Hitachi Zosen Corp., Bertha arrived in Seattle in April 2013. The machine was launched from a pit near the stadiums in July of that year. In December 2013, STP stopped mining after measuring increased temperatures in the machine. 
     
    After an investigation, STP discovered damage to the machine’s main bearing. Crews completed repairs and resumed mining in December 2015. The cause of damage to the tunneling machine is in dispute and is currently in litigation. Neither WSDOT nor STP is able to comment further on ongoing legal issues.
     
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  • March 23 project update: Getting ready for Bertha’s breakthrough

    Seattle Tunnel Partners is making final preparations for the SR 99 tunneling machine’s arrival at the disassembly pit near Seattle Center. Because mining rates will continue to vary as crews approach the pit, we can’t predict when Bertha’s breakthrough will occur. As of this morning, the cutterhead was approximately 320 feet from the finish line. We will continue to provide regular progress updates along the way.
     
    We recognize that there is great interest surrounding this stage of the project, and we are working on ways to share this historic moment with the public. We will be activating a new time-lapse camera as well as streaming video of the disassembly pit prior to breakthrough. These cameras will offer the best view of Bertha’s arrival in the pit. We will also continue to share photos and provide frequent updates via social media, including daily progress updates. For safety reasons, the public will not be allowed in the construction zone during the breakthrough. 
     
    Look for more updates soon about the breakthrough sequence, the process for disassembling Bertha and the work that remains before the tunnel opens in 2019.
     
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  • March 9 project update: New 360-degree video takes you inside the tunnel as Bertha enters Zone 10

    The countdown is on as Bertha, the SR 99 tunneling machine, mined into the 10th and final zone of the 9,270-foot tunnel drive this week. With 1,294 concrete tunnel rings installed in the ground behind her, Bertha is less than two blocks from the disassembly pit where her journey will end.
     
    How is the interior of the tunnel shaping up? And how is Bertha doing? It’s probably best if we show you. Click below to join Program Administrator Joe Hedges on a 360-degree tour of the project. Move your smartphone up and down to move around the tunnel. Or, if you’re on a computer, grab the picture with your mouse for a 360-degree view of the work that’s happening out of sight, underneath Seattle.   
     
     
    Looking ahead
     
    It’s still too early to predict when Bertha will reach the disassembly pit. Seattle Tunnel Partners’ most recent schedule shows that tunnel boring is slated to end in May, but mining rates will continue to vary based on maintenance needs and ground conditions.
     
    There’s still plenty of work to do after tunnel boring is complete. STP will begin disassembling the tunneling machine soon after the cutterhead breaks into the pit. They will remove the machine in small pieces and haul them away by truck, a process that will take several months.
     
    Meanwhile, crews will continue building the double-deck highway inside the tunnel. This work is completed in different stages, as shown in our weekly interior structures report. The roadway deck is now at the southern edge of Pike Place Market, or nearly 50 percent complete.  
     
    Crews are also installing mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems that must be completed before the tunnel can open to traffic. This is a big job that is scheduled to last well into 2018. 
     
    As construction continues, WSDOT and STP will begin an extensive commissioning program. This involves a series of thorough inspections, tests and quality verification procedures to ensure the tunnel systems are functioning properly.  
     
    Based on STP’s schedule, the tunnel is projected to open in early 2019. Progress updates are posted on Mondays and Thursdays at our Follow Bertha page. You can also follow Bertha on Twitter @BerthaDigsSR99.   
     
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Media requests

If you'd like to schedule an interview with a member of our team, please contact:

Laura Newborn
Media relations, Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement Program 
206-805-2871
newborl@wsdot.wa.gov