Big wait? Bertha already 2 weeks behind

Bertha in the launch pit (Courtesy: WSDOT)

SEATTLE -- We all know Bertha is big. But it's also late.

According to a recent report released by the Seattle Times, the highway tunneling machine has only advanced 24 feet so far, putting it nearly two weeks behind schedule. The drill was expected to progress about 6 feet per day initially, and then ramp up to 35 feet per day as it reached softer soil. However, technical difficulties and a labor dispute delay the pace.

Bunches of fiberglass strands clumped up at the bottom of Bertha shortly after it began digging caused more trouble than expected. As soon as the fiberglass problem was cleared, a labor dispute between the tunnel contractors and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union threatened to stall things once again.

Washington State Department of Transportation officials said they expected the start of tunneling to be a slow period of learning and adjustment. They expect to make the time up later in the project, officials told the Times.

The tunnel is part of a $3.1 billion replacement for the Alaskan Way Viaduct. The tunnel will be 1.7 miles long and is expected to open at the end of 2015.