Areas surrounding the access pit being excavated to rescue the stalled Bertha TBM have experienced settlement as much as 1 to almost 1.5 inches according to a draft figure released by WSDOT on December 11, 2014. The aging and seismically deficient Viaduct itself has experienced 1 inch of settlement as well. Structural engineers have inspected it as well as numerous buildings in the area and have not found structural damage. The settlement is thought to be related to the dewatering associated with the access pit construction. The excavation was within 3 feet of the bottom when the settlement issues were first announced on December 5, and WSDOT has since allowed the contractor to complete the excavation. [Source: Read more information in the update provided by the WSDOT Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement Project team. Image: WSDOT]
Perhaps you’ve heard of Bertha, the World’s Largest Tunnel Boring Machine or TBM? She’s currently working her way underneath Downtown Seattle, excavating the Alaska Way Bored Tunnel to replace the aging Alaska Way Viaduct. This $2 Billion megaproject is an incredible feat of engineering on so many levels. I was in Seattle in September for the Association of Engineering Geologists annual meeting, and was fortunate enough to attend a field trip to see the launch pit and Bertha before she began her tunnel drive. It was an unforgettable experience for this engineer! In this article I give an overview of the project and Bertha herself, discuss some of the geotechnical features, and share my photos and video. Check it out!