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Here comes Big Bertha!

The Jumbo Fairpartner set sail on March 19 out of Osaka, Japan, carrying Bertha, the massive five-story-tall machine that will dig the SR 99 tunnel underneath downtown Seattle. The voyage is about 5,000 miles and will take approximately two weeks to cross the Pacific Ocean. The 475-foot vessel carrying Bertha is expected to arrive at the Port of Seattle’s Terminal 46 around April 1 – no joke and weather permitting.

Bertha sets sail – SR 99 tunneling machine heads for Seattle. (Photo courtesy of WSDOT)

Bertha sets sail – SR 99 tunneling machine heads for Seattle. (Photo courtesy of WSDOT)

Bertha is so large it had to be taken apart into 41 pieces to be loaded onto the Fairpartner – the heaviest piece weighs about 900 tons! She was built in Japan by the firm Hitachi Zosen Corporation and is owned by Seattle Tunnel Partners (STP), the Washington State Department of Transportation’s (WSDOT) contractor for the project.

Do you want to watch history being made? WSDOT will have a live webcam pointed at Bertha’s landing spot, and has posted a map of locations where you can view the machine’s arrival and unloading on a new Web page devoted to tracking Bertha’s journey (check out the “Viewer’s guide to Bertha, the SR 99 tunneling machine”). However, the most frequent updates will come via a Twitter account (@BerthaDigsSR99) WSDOT launched on Bertha’s behalf in December.

So what will happen when Bertha arrives? Crews will be ready to offload the parts and transport them to storage areas throughout the work zone. Then, in late April, after the launch pit has been completed, the pieces will be lowered into the pit, where the reassembly and testing will begin. This process will take approximately two months.

Bertha is scheduled to start digging the tunnel this summer.

Big cargo – shipping the SR 99 tunneling machine to Seattle The view from the cabin of the Jumbo Fairpartner, the ship tasked with carrying the world’s largest-diameter tunneling machine to Seattle. (Photo courtesy of WSDOT)

Big cargo – shipping the SR 99 tunneling machine to Seattle
The view from the cabin of the Jumbo Fairpartner, the ship tasked with carrying the world’s largest-diameter tunneling machine to Seattle. (Photo courtesy of WSDOT)

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