Bertha's re-startup delayed

by: Deborah Horne Updated:

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SEATTLE —

As soon as we arrived at the site of the big Seattle tunnel dig, it was apparent Bertha, the tunnel digging machine used to replace the Seattle viaduct, hadn't started doing any work. Tom Friedman came down on his lunch hour. "I'm just coming by to see what's going on," said the Seattle man. But he noticed there wasn't much to see. "I think the governor's right," Friedman said. "We need to get the project moving."

 "Bertha will soon be back in business." Gov. Jay Inslee made that promise Tuesday when he announced a breakthrough in the weeks-long standoff between the company building the tunnel and the Longshoremen's union over who would transport the dirt Bertha churns up. "We've given the green light to Bertha," Inslee said. "And the contractor now needs to get Bertha up running again as soon as possible."

 That was supposed to happen Friday. But late Friday, a spokeswoman for the Seattle Tunnel Partners said that during testing they discovered dirt had hardened inside Bertha's injection ports as she sat idle for more than a month. Those ports must be cleaned out -- and the testing completed -- before Bertha is allowed back to work. It all sounds sadly familiar to Julie Nelson of Issaquah. "It sounds like a typical government delay," she said.

 "Time's money," said Geoff Shaw of Seattle. "Any delays are going to cost whoever winds up paying for it, whether it's the city or the state. Yeah, let's just get it done." The plan is to clean out the injection ports over weekend and continue testing Bertha. Then get the machine back to work early next week. KIRO 7 will let you know just when that happens.