Mission to repair Bertha tunneler hits another delay

Mission to repair Bertha tunneler hits another delay
Workers enter the highway tunnel created by Bertha. (State Dept. of Transportation photo)
SEATTLE - The mission to save the giant Bertha tunneling machine stuck 60 feet under Seattle has hit another delay.

The tunneler was supposed to come up for repairs in September or October, but crews reportedly are having a harder time than expected digging a shaft to the damaged cutter head.

Crews were installing concrete rings into the 120-foot-deep shaft, but then work began to slow down.

Once the shaft is complete, workers will hoist the 2,000-ton front end of the tunnel machine to the surface, and begin repairs damaged seals and bearings.

Bertha ground to a halt in early December about 1,000 feet into the 1.7-mile Highway 99 tunnel that will replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct.

Despite the latest delays, Seattle Tunnel Partners says it will resume digging the tunnel as originally scheduled in March 2015, because it built in extra time for the repair process.

The tunnel is expected to be completed and open in November 2016.