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Bertha
The reassembled front end of Bertha, the SR 99 tunneling machine, is lowered into an access pit in August 2015. (Flickr Photo / WSDOT)

If you’ve forgotten what Bertha, the SR 99 tunneling machine, looks like after all these years, get ready to see her face again soon.

Bertha’s massive cutterhead is just days away from reaching the end of the 9,270-foot journey that has taken the machine beneath Seattle in a multi-year quest to build a new underground highway and replace the aging Alaskan Way Viaduct.

On Monday, the Twitter feed associated with the machine announced that it was just 219 feet from reaching the final wall at the north portal. It is here that Bertha will emerge into a seven-story-deep pit, thus completing her boring operations and beginning the process of being disassembled.

Last Friday, KIRO7 reported that Bertha could reach daylight as early as the end of this week. Seattle Tunnel Partners project manager Chris Dixon told the station that Bertha would be taken apart in 20-ton pieces “that can be loaded directly onto trucks and transported from the site.”

GeekWire has also heard that sometime next week could be a more accurate estimation of Bertha’s arrival.

SR 99 tunnel
A view of the completed outer wall of the tunnel as seen last summer. (Flickr Photo / WSDOT)

The Washington State Department of Transportation’s project website reported that a new time-lapse camera as well as streaming video of the disassembly pit will be put in place prior to breakthrough. Because the public will not be allowed in the construction zone, these cameras as well as updates on social media are the best bet for getting news of Bertha’s arrival in the pit.

It’s been a long road from start to finish, thanks mainly to a significant delay caused by a two-year stoppage for repairs from December 2013 to December 2015. Previous estimates had Bertha reaching the receiving pit — at Sixth Avenue North and Thomas Street — by the end of May. The new double-decker Highway 99 is expected to open in 2019.

Bertha zones
(WSDOT Graphic)
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