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Former Gov. Chris Gregoire with current Gov. Jay Inslee visiting the Bertha site. (File Photo, Seattle Tunnel Partners.)
Former Gov. Chris Gregoire with current Gov. Jay Inslee visiting the Bertha site. (File Photo, Seattle Tunnel Partners.)

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on Thursday said he was “seriously disappointed” and ordering a stop to the Bertha tunneling machine along Seattle’s waterfront after a sinkhole formed near the project this week. King5 reported that Inslee “is ordering tunnel contractor Seattle Tunnel Partners to stop drilling until safety can be guaranteed.”

King5 tweeted a picture of the sinkhole, which reportedly formed Tuesday night. According to project manager Chris Dixon, it measured 35 feet long, 20 feet wide and 15 feet deep. King5 reported that the hole has been filled with concrete.

“What can I say? Some things happen,” Dixon told The Seattle Times on Wednesday. “We still remain confident in everything that we’re going be doing forward, to complete the tunnel drive.”

If you think Bertha needs a giant “Some things happen” T-shirt now, you wouldn’t be alone. After sitting idle for repairs for two years, the $90 million machine just resumed operations at the end of December. And with a critical move beneath the elevated Alaskan Way Viaduct coming up, some on Twitter couldn’t resist using the latest snafu to express a less-than-optimistic outlook for the costly SR 99 project.

Bertha in December. (Washington State DOT)
Bertha in December. (Washington State DOT)

The Seattle Times reported Thursday that the stoppage had been confirmed by Lars Erickson, communications director for the Washington State Department of Transportation.

Before Bertha can push forward again, The Times quoted Inslee as saying, “The contractor must identify the root-cause analysis and complete the analysis of the issues that have occurred since the contractor has resumed tunneling.”

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