by: KIRO 7 STAFF Updated:
Bertha, the tunnel boring machine that is digging a replacement for the Alaskan Way Viaduct, will not start digging again until March 2015, contractors said Monday.
The new Bertha timeline means the tunneling delay will be 16 months. It has gone just four feet since December.
The tunnel was first scheduled to open in late 2015, and that date was moved to November 2016.
Officials said they hoped to still meet that date, but did not say specifically if there would be a delay.
“Resuming tunneling will take longer than any of us would have liked, but making these repairs is a significant engineering challenge that must be done safely,” Chris Dixon, Seattle Tunnel Partners project manager said in a statement. “We are committed to this project, and to taking the necessary steps to recover time and open the tunnel to drivers by WSDOT’s original target date.”
The repair schedule will include time to accommodate potential improvements to the machine that STP or the machine’s manufacturer, Hitachi Zosen Corp., might choose to make after the cutterhead is removed and crews are able to perform a full inspection, officials said.
“We are disappointed by this delay, but we believe the new schedule is moving in the right direction,” Todd Trepanier, WSDOT’s Alaskan Way Viaduct program administrator, said in a statement. “We’ll continue to work with STP in their efforts to resume tunneling. We’re also focused on the rest of the program, which includes more than $750 million worth of work at the tunnel portals and elsewhere along the SR 99 corridor. That construction is not affected by the tunneling stoppage and continues full speed ahead.”