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A 360-degree video shot inside the tunnel being built beneath Seattle gives viewers a unique new perspective of what it’s like to bore a 2-mile tube and construct a highway 200 feet underground.

As Bertha, the SR 99 tunneling machine heads into the home stretch, viewers can spin and crane their necks in what feels like a 5-minute ride along with the massive machine. Joe Hedges, a project administrator with the Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement Program, serves as narrator and tour guide.

Forty feet behind Bertha’s cutterhead, we see how the 18-ton rings are placed to form the tunnel’s outer wall. With the machine entering the 10th and final stage of a 9,270-foot journey this week, WSDOT reports that 1,294 concrete rings have been placed along the way.

Bertha is just two blocks from the receiving pit — near the intersection of Sixth Avenue North and Thomas Street — where she will emerge, perhaps by the end of May, and eventually be disassembled.

Bertha progress
(WSDOT Graphic)

The 360-camera also captures views inside the pilot house where Bertha is controlled. It’s a place “few people ever get to see,” Hedges says, pointing out that the 5-story-tall Bertha makes its way only with the use of sensors — no windows down here!

Bertha pilot house
The 360-degree camera captures workers inside the pilot house of Bertha the tunnel machine. (YouTube / WSDOT screen grab)

The video shows iron workers constructing the future double-decker roadway, section by section, hundreds of feet behind Bertha. The further from the machine, the more complete the new SR 99 looks. The lower roadway will not be done until Bertha is done, because space is needed for equipment that still needs to be transported into the tunnel.

Joe Hedges
Joe Hedges of the Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement Program, says the project is about “getting Highway 99 underneath Seattle” and “we’re well underway.” (YouTube / WSDOT screen grab)
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