Bertha, the world record 5-story-tall boring machine, is on her way to Seattle. The five-story-tall machine left Osaka, Japan, on Tuesday aboard the Jumbo Fairpartner, the 475-foot-long vessel that will carry it across the Pacific Ocean.
If weather cooperates, Bertha will arrive at the Port of Seattle's Terminal 46 around April 1.
"Sayonara, Japan," Bertha said via her Twitter account (@BerthaDigsSR99). "It’s been real, but I've got some business to attend to in Seattle."
"I'm in 41 pieces packed tightly on a ship. It’s 54°. Not what I had in mind when they told me I was taking a cruise, but I’m on my way."
Bertha's deep-bore tunnel will replace the aging Alaskan Way Viaduct, which will eventually be torn down. She should begin digging next summer. WSDOT will have a live webcam pointed at Bertha's arrival point, and will post a map of locations where the public can view the machine's arrival and unloading on a new Web page devoted to tracking Bertha's journey. The most frequent updates will come via Twitter.
When Bertha arrives at Terminal 46, crews will offload her pieces and transport them to storage areas throughout the work zone. Once the launch pit is finished, in late April, the stored pieces will be lowered into the launch pit. Reassembly and testing of the machine will take about two months.
"This machine was built specifically for the soils beneath Seattle," said Chris Dixon, Seattle Tunnel Partners project manager. "We are on track to start tunneling this summer and to open the tunnel to traffic in late 2015."
Crews in Seattle are about 80 percent finished with the pit where Bertha will start digging. In addition to building the launch pit, crews are preparing the surrounding area for tunneling. That work includes strengthening the soil and building protected areas along the initial section of the tunnel route so crews can perform scheduled inspections of the machine before it begins tunneling beneath the city. Work is also under way near the north end of the Battery Street Tunnel to prepare the area where Bertha will emerge at the end of tunneling.
Bertha’s name was chosen as part of a contest for kindergarten through 12th-grade students. Proposed names had to be female and have significance to Washington state heritage, life, nature, transportation or engineering. Bertha was selected from more than 150 entries by a panel of judges that included Gov. Chris Gregoire and Transportation Secretary Paula Hammond. Elected mayor of Seattle in 1926, Bertha Knight Landes was the first woman to lead a major American city.