WSDOT: Bertha problems worse than first thought, further delays possible

SEATTLE -- Damages to the State Route 99 deep tunnel boring machine are worse than originally thought, WSDOT officials said Monday, possibly pointing to further delays with tunnel completion.

The SR 99 tunnel, which will run about 2 miles under the city, is designed to replace the Alaskan Way viaduct, damaged in a 2001 earthquake. The project is already two years behind schedule as the tunneling machine, nicknamed Bertha, has been slowed and fraught with problems.

In March, crews reached Bertha at a tunnel access points to begin repairs on the much maligned tunneling machine. WSDOT officials told the Seattle City Council that seals were much more damaged than previously thought.

"The damage is much more extensive than what they felt they were going to find," Todd Trepanier, the Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement Program Administrator, said.

However, the damage is not more extensive than officials were previously prepared to make, he said.  The causation of the damages was not yet released.

An updated schedule for tunneling completion is expected to come out in June, officials said. The timeline is expected to change, but the new dates were not yet known or released by Seattle Tunnel Partners.

Seattle City Councilmember questioned the continued viability of the beleaguered tunneling machine.

"I'm questioning some of the judgement calls that are happening behind a curtain that we don't have a peak at," O'Brien said.

This story is breaking and will be updated as more information becomes available.