Bertha, the giant drilling tool that has been a thorn in the side of everyone from the Washington State Department of Transportation to traffic-goers on SR-99 to arena proponents, looks like she may finally be on the move.
The machine was stalled for the entirety of 2014 due to overheating issues but yesterday moved an entire three feet. This morning, workers chipped a hole in the wall before Bertha moved again, bursting through the wall and into an access pit at around 11:59 am. "The machine will continue to move forward in 6 ½ foot increments, stopping to build rings on its way into the pit," according to an update from WSDOT. The plan then is to remove the drill's face, piece by piece, from the tunnel in order to repair it. "When the front end of the machine is fully exposed, crews will begin the disassembly process. STP has told us that taking the machine apart and lifting it to the surface will take significant time and effort," the update says. They will replace it's bearings and seals in order to prevent further overheating. If you are into boring things (get it?), there is a video of the steps they will take to repair it on YouTube.
WSDOT has not given a timeline for the repairs, but this has to be seen as a big win for the completion of the EIS. Bertha has been a, if not the, major concern for the WSDOT as far as traffic concerns and getting it into the access pit is the first step in getting it repaired and getting it moving again, which, of course, is the most important step in finishing the SR-99 tunnel. While that final step is still a ways away, this is a good sign of progress and could affect the EIS timeline.