Fixing Seattle tunneling machine to take months

SEATTLE — The Washington state Transportation Department says the contracting team trying to dig a highway tunnel under downtown Seattle has advised that it will “take months” to fix broken seals on the world’s largest tunneling machine.

In a statement late Monday, the Transportation Department said Seattle Tunnel Partners is working with the machine’s manufacturer to determine how best to fix the broken seals surrounding the main bearing of the machine called “Bertha.” It’s 60 feet underground. They’re looking at accessing the area through the back of the machine or by drilling an access shaft in front of it. Transportation officials say either way, “this process will take months.”

The machine has been mostly idle for two months.

The Transportation Department says so far the contractors “have not shown any evidence that suggests the state or taxpayers will be responsible for cost overruns associated with these repairs. “

Building the tunnel is expected to allow the removal of the aging Alaskan Way Viaduct.

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