Saturday, September 14, 2013

Bertha Stuck in the Hole!

So what does it take to stop the worlds largest multi-billion dollar Tunnel Boring Machine dead in it's bore? After burrowing only 24 feet into the soil beneath Seattle, Bertha has ground to a halt! And as of today, hasn't moved an inch in 35 days!

A broken fan belt or some other machinery? No. Some unforeseen physical obstruction? No.

What stopped Bertha was an unforeseen labor obstruction.

A battle between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 19 and a labor trades union over just four jobs - one each to run a conveyor belt and a bulldozer, and two to position the barges!

Spoils from the TBM are to be moved by a conveyor belt to Terminal 46 and  loaded onto barges. The sticking point is this:  Is Terminal 46 a dock or part of a construction site?

From Pier 46, the spoils will be barged up the Puget Sound and deposited in an old gravel pit.

Here is what we see in today's latest web cam view.

"Operations buildings will be built at both ends of the SR 99 tunnel. The excavation taking place just east of the SR 99 tunnel launch pit is for the south portal operations building. This building will control the tunnel's vital systems, including safety, lighting and ventilation, and will also house large maintenance vehicles. Nearly two-thirds of the operations building will be located underground." 
(Natalie Graves, WSDOT)

An article in the Seattle Times (September 14th) explains the complexity of this labor dispute, one that no politician in Seattle is eager to get involved in.

See also:
 •  Off in a Cloud of Dust

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