Seattle Mayor Ed Murray announced Monday the formation of a new office that will focus directly on waterfront redevelopment projects. It is the latest indication he is not going to let the state’s stalled tunnel project slow down progress.
Murray said he understands the problems the state and its contractor are having with “Bertha” the tunnel digging machine and said the city wants to be part of the solution. But he also said he cannot allow those problems or any others to slow the replacement of the aging Seattle seawall.
Murray said the seawall is a matter of public safety that has to be completed to protect the Alaskan Way Viaduct, which was damaged in the 2001 Nisqually earthquake and may not withstand another one.
Washington State Transportation (WSDOT) officials said last week there is no timeline in effect for its contractor, Seattle Tunnel Partners (STP) to determine how to repair damaged parts in the tunnel machine dubbed “Bertha.”
A WSDOT spokesman said the contractor found damage to the seals protecting Bertha’s critical main bearing. That is the primary component of the system that spins Bertha’s massive cutter head.
Bertha has moved about four feet since it ground to a halt in December. STP engineers are working on a fix, but have not yet determined the extent of the damage to the seals and possibly the bearing.
Murray said the city and the state are working closely on coordinating the two projects, but said he cannot slow down the seawall replacement to wait for the tunnel.