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Fixing a 7,000-Ton Drill 101

An anonymous reader writes: At the end of last year, we discussed Bertha, the world's largest tunnel boring machine. During an effort to drill a viaduct beneath downtown Seattle, the machine — clocking in at 7,000 tons, 57.5 feet in diameter, and 326 feet long — got hamstrung by an 8-inch-diameter steel pipe. The complexity and scope of the repair plan rivals that of the project itself. "The rescue operation (workers call it "the intervention") began in late spring with construction on the shaft to reach Bertha. Workers have been sinking pilings in a ring to prevent the shaft from collapsing, using 24,000 cubic yards of concrete — enough for a medium-size office building. Once that ring is complete, digging on the shaft will start. When the shaft is ready, Bertha, which is damaged but still operational, will be turned back on so she can chew through the concrete pilings to reach the center of the shaft. There, the machine will rest on a cradle where workers can detach the front end and hoist it out." That detachable front end? It weighs about 2,000 tons by itself. The repair bill is estimated at about $125 million.
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Fixing a 7,000-Ton Drill

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  • by Z00L00K (682162) on Saturday August 02, 2014 @01:06PM (#47589661) Homepage

    Meanwhile the old one is still there blocking the path.

    I don't think that they have much choice in this case but to fix the machine in place.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 02, 2014 @01:56PM (#47589877)

    Indeed and I don't recall major problems with the bus tunnel and that train tunnel from a hundred years ago also went relatively smoothly.

    The main reason that Bertha is having issues is that it's extreme engineering. Nobody has built a drill that size and the soil itself is quite challenging as well. The tunnel will be built and 30 years from now most people won't be thinking about how ugly the process was.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 02, 2014 @06:53PM (#47591043)

    The contractors are on the hook for the bill, not the taxpayers. No idea whether or not they have insurance that might or might not cover it.

    Ignore the tea-baggers who are claiming this is a government failure. This one's all about how private industry isn't getting it done.

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