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Tunnel workers
A screen grab from the video showing workers replacing a tunnel machine cutting tool. (Via WSDOT YouTube)

Next time I think about requesting a stand-up desk or I ask for the air conditioning to be adjusted near my desk, I’m going to think about the workers 120 feet below downtown Seattle. Seattle Tunnel Partners has released a compelling new video showing the working conditions faced by crews performing maintenance on Bertha, the SR 99 tunnel machine.

We already knew workers would be dealing with hyperbaric conditions as they inspected and replaced cutting tools during this scheduled stop on Bertha’s journey. Now we get a glimpse of the cramped, dark, wet, dirty, loud and dangerous workspace.

In the video posted to YouTube Monday, workers are shown crawling through a small port to access the tunnel machine’s cutterhead. They can be seen pressure washing the area and then removing a cutting tool and replacing it with a new one. The tools weigh 75 pounds each.

According to the Washington State Department of Transportation, Bertha’s cutterhead is outfitted with more than 700 tools. So far, STP has replaced only 25 of the more than 400 tools they’ve inspected during the stop.

Cutting tool
(Via WSDOT Flickr)

A new photo on WSDOT’s Flickr page Tuesday showed a new tool next to a worn one.

Bertha has been parked below Spring Street, just west of First Avenue, since June 23. WSDOT said crews are on schedule to resume mining by the end of the month.

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