Lynnwood man tours tunnel site, really digs ‘Bertha’

Mark Mahnkey of Lynnwood was so curious about the tunnel being dug under the downtown Seattle waterfront, he finagled himself a tour.

He was especially interested in the giant drilling machine nicknamed “Bertha.”

“It is a boy thing, I think,” Mahnkey said. “Construction, big machines, doing stuff most folks haven’t.”

On a recent Saturday, state Department of Transportation personnel and work crews showed Mahnkey around the pit that will become the south end of the tunnel — “the belly of the beast,” as he put it.

The actual drilling hasn’t yet begun — it’s scheduled to start sometime this summer. But Bertha is in place and ready to rumble, he said.

“This is truly a big machine, way over 100 yards long, including all the trailing stuff,” Mahnkey said. “I thought I was in the shaft gallery on the Queen Mary in Long Beach.”

The drilling device is the largest in the world, according to the transportation department. It’s more than 57 feet in diameter — roughly as tall as a five-story building.

Bertha was shipped to Seattle in parts following its construction in Osaka, Japan. The machine arrived in Elliott Bay in April and was reassembled in an 80-foot-deep pit to the west of Safeco and CenturyLink fields.

Crews spent about an hour showing Mahnkey around, he said. He was told four people will be working 10-hour shifts on the project five days a week.

As the dirt is dug out, another machine will divert it to a conveyor belt which will take it back out of the tunnel to the south, he said.

The tunneling is expected to take 14 months and the four-lane toll tunnel is scheduled to open to traffic in early 2016. The project cost is $3.1 billion.

Junelle Erickson of Everett writes: Regarding the repaving of southbound Highway 99 in Lynnwood after the recent water and electric systems upgrades, I’m wondering if there is a possibility that the repaving could be extended south to 148th Street SW.

As you drive under the Highway 525 overpass and proceed south, the highway has been patched so often that it is hard to see the lane dividers. These patches and the faded lane markers make it extremely difficult, especially in the rain or at night, to discern the lane parameters.

Travis Phelps, a spokesman for the state Department of Transportation, responds: The state can’t require utilities to pave beyond the area they’re affecting during construction. The transportation department assesses the pavement along each highway every two years. This section of Highway 99 will be inspected sometime this summer. If this section of the highway must be repaved, it will occur sometime between 2015 and 2017.

If the inspection finds sections of highway that must be repaved immediately, the transportation department will rely on its maintenance crews to conduct interim spot repairs until funding can be secured for a permanent fix.

E-mail us at stsmarts@heraldnet.com. Please include your city of residence.

Look for updates on our Street Smarts blog at www.heraldnet.com/streetsmarts.

More in Local News

Within an hour, 2 planes crash-land at Paine Field

One simply landed hard and went off the end of a runway. Another crash involved unextended landing gear.

Mill Creek’s Donna Michelson ready to retire at year’s end

The city’s longest-serving council member says she has every intention of staying involved.

Leanne Smiciklas, the friendly lady who served customers of her husband’s Old School Barbeque from a schoolbus parked in front of the Reptile Zoo east of Monroe, has died at 64. (Dan Bates / Herald file)
Without her, beloved BBQ hotspot in Monroe can’t go on

Leanne Smiciklas, who ran the now-closed Old School BBQ along Highway 2 with her husband, died.

Foundation awards grants to Arlington schools

The Arlington Education Foundation on Nov. 13 presented a check to the… Continue reading

Snohomish County firefighters head to California for 18 days

They’re from Fire District 26 in Gold Bar, Getchell Fire and Fire District 7.

State commission reprimands Snohomish County judge for DUI

Judge Marybeth Dingledy had pleaded guilty and was sentenced to a day in jail.

Driver arrested after car strikes pedestrian in Everett

The pedestrian was crossing the road near 12th Street and Broadway. He was injured.

Active Casino Road volunteer honored for work

Molina Healthcare recently honored Jorge Galindo, from Everett, as one of its… Continue reading

Over $12K raised to InspireHER

InspireHER, a local organization that encourages female empowerment, raised over $12,000 at… Continue reading

Most Read