Bertha, the giant tunnel boring machine stalled under Seattle, can be fixed and will complete the Highway 99 tunnel project, say Washington Department of Transportation officials. That was the optimistic view from project leaders as they gave the city a Bertha update Monday.
So far, the contractor building the tunnel has replaced 33 of Bertha's cutter head tools and they don't think there are any other metal pipes in Bertha's path.
But the most important question posed to WSDOT from Seattle City Council members: Who's on the hook for cost overruns?
WSDOT secretary assured them Seattle is not named in the contract between the state and the contractor, Seattle Tunnel Partners. After Bertha hit a pipe in December that was placed underground years ago by the state, there's been finger pointing about who is responsible.
The state is confident the tunnel boring machine can complete the job. Initial tests show there are no more steel pipes like the one she bit into in December in her path. Some of her teeth are worn and some have been replaced.
Most likely this week they will finally send workers down into the hyperbaric chambers to try to remind the remainder of the pipe that Bertha chewed into.
There's no estimation still on when Bertha will be running again and how much teh month-long delay will cost. It's possible that who ends up paying for this delay may be decided in court.