Bertha's repaired cutter-head being lowered back into access pit

SEATTLE -- With work on Bertha inching forward, Washington State Department of Transportation and Seattle Tunnel Partners seem optimistic the project is back on track, but nearby business owners are skeptical.

“The repairs are very complex and involved so today is a real milestone,” Seattle Tunnel Partners project manager Chris Dixon said Monday.

The massive cutter-head for the 4-million-pound drilling machine is being lowered down into its pit, getting in place to resume work on the SR 99 tunnel project.

While the contractor, STP, seemed pleased with the progress at the media announcement, blocks away at Arundel Books, founder Phil Bevis isn’t so sure.

“After Bertha broke during tunnel construction, a bunch of buildings in Pioneer Square settled, and it caused a number of complications and right in this area for a period of time,” said Bevis.

For Bevis, it meant moving out of his original store location to a space above ground.

“Problems with the tunnel project and excavating Bertha forced us to move at a tremendous expense,” said Bevis. “It cost us a ton of money, and we’re just about to enter the claims process.”

Bevis believes WSDOT and STP's biggest issues have been lack of transparency and lack of communication.

“It goes a long way to build trust and faith and that’s where they’re really hurting,” said Bevis.

With Bertha nearly repaired and a target completion date set for spring of 2018, Dixon said during the media tour that he doesn’t foresee any more obstacles.

“Once we start the tunnel drive, we will complete it successfully without any incidents,” said Dixon.

It's a claim businesses say they will really have to see to believe.

“I hope they are, I really do, but so far nothing they’ve done has given me any reason to have any faith,” said Bevis.

By Thursday, Bertha’s cutter-head is expected to be in place in the pit.

From then until the end of November, crews will be working to reconnect hoses, wires and complete tests so tunneling can begin.