SEATTLE – Bertha is about to move under the Viaduct.
David Sowers, the Alaskan Way Viaduct Deputy Administrator, said Sunday afternoon that the tunnel boring machine had moved 43 feet in more than 48 hours. Her dive down under the elevated structure is the reason the state closed the Viaduct, Highway 99, early Friday morning.
“The viaduct itself continues to look great,” Sowers said. “There’s been no reports or measurable movement of the Viaduct or any of the surface streets, sidewalks or utilities.”
Bertha has to go 385 feet during this portion of her journey under downtown. Crews from Seattle Tunnel Partners, the contractor on the project, are cautiously monitoring measurements.
See a simulation of Bertha's journey from WSDOT:
“There’s essentially four sets of columns that we have to cross below. They’re coming up on that first set of columns right now,” Sowers said, adding that the whole 380-feet plus journey is all a critical piece. “There’s no point along that period where they can just stop and take a coffee break. They’re going to keep mining diligently and carefully and we’re going to keep monitoring it.”
Sowers wouldn’t give an exact date or time when he expects to reopen 99. He said it won’t be until the end of this week likely when teams might be able to better forecast when cars will be on the viaduct again.
In the meantime, he warned this week’s commutes could be bad.
“The real test will be Monday, Tuesday [and] Wednesday as we get into the morning/evening commutes in the work day and people start to maybe not pay attention and not think about taking alternate routes or alternate modes but actually fall back into their old habits,” he said.
Some have really planned ahead. Dennis McLaughlin and his friend Carol Rose gave themselves plenty of time to get to the Mariners game Sunday.
“It was pretty easy. We went out to breakfast,” Rose said. “We went to feed his dog and we came to the ballpark like at 10:00.”
That was three hours early.
“I’ve got three people working for me who put on about 160 miles a day driving all over the city and this Viaduct thing is really getting to them,” McLaughlin explained. “I had one guy that had to leave the north end in Seattle and go out for an emergency repair … to Southcenter … took him 2 hours. That was 4:00.”
Plan your commute this week by logging on to WSDOT's 99 Closure Resource Page.