Some Seattle tunnel work continues as Bertha awaits fix

SEATTLE (AP) - Even while the massive machine boring a highway tunnel under downtown Seattle awaits repair, some work continues on the project to reroute Highway 99.

Workers have already started reconfiguring the pit used last summer to launch the machine called Bertha, the Transportation Department said. The pit near the waterfront and the Mariners and Seahawks stadiums will become a covered section of highway tunnel.

Crews also are starting work this weekend for future tunnel connections to city streets near what is now the south end of the Battery Street tunnel, not far from the Seattle Center.

Meanwhile, transportation officials are meeting Friday with the contractor, Seattle Tunnel Partners, to learn how long it will take to repair damaged seals on the machine's cutting head, the Seattle Daily Journal of Commerce reported Thursday.

The work will involve digging an access shaft to reach the machine 60 feet underground.

Bertha ground to a halt in the first week of December about 1,000 feet into the 1.7-mile tunnel route.

When completed in a couple of years, the tunnel will allow the state to tear down the Alaskan Way Viaduct, the 60-year-old double-decker highway along the Seattle waterfront.

The viaduct will be closed this weekend for a routine inspection. Monitors have already found the viaduct settled nearly half an inch near the tunnel-boring machine. The Transportation Department said that was expected and the viaduct is still safe for everyday use.