Viaduct Closure: "We're halfway there" to reopening SR 99

SEATTLE -- State transportation officials say the tunneling machine known as Bertha is halfway toward the 385 feet needed before the SR 99 Alaskan Way Viaduct can reopen.

The Washington State Department of Transportation said that, as of Thursday night, Bertha had dug 195 feet of the 385 feet required before the viaduct can be reopened. The halfway point was 192.5 feet.

But, wishes to reopen the Alaskan Way Viaduct is just that-- wishes.

"Mining is a really complicated venture, especially when you’re dealing with a mine that’s 50 feet wide that’s being dug by a gigantic tunnel boring machine, so there’s a lot of variables," says WSDOT spokesman Travis Phelps.

Phelps says commute patterns have been changing every day of the viaduct closure.  "But, we've still got halfway to go still."

Traffic company INRIX says in new data released Thursday that travel times on Interstate 5 both north and southbound have only been slightly longer, about 5-10 minutes.

The viaduct was closed to traffic starting last Friday, April 29, and is scheduled to remain closed for two weeks, while Bertha tunnels under the structure.

The Washington State Department of Transportation's Bertha tracking page shows the machine's progress. WSDOT also released new video that gives a behind-the-scenes look at how the tunnel is being built. "Massive concrete ring segments are transported to Bertha’s segment erector where they are lifted into place, allowing the machine to push forward while the excavated soil is transported along a network of conveyor belts and into a barge moored at Elliott Bay’s Pier 46.