Follow Slashdot stories on Twitter

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Check out the new SourceForge HTML5 internet speed test! No Flash necessary and runs on all devices. ×
Transportation Technology

Seattle's Behemoth Boring Machine, Idle Since 2013, Makes Some Progress 111

After being blocked by an obstruction ("the object") which left it idle just over two years ago, repair work has continued on Bertha, Seattle's enormous tunnel-boring machine. Now, reports KOMO News and The Seattle Times, Bertha is once again ready to work. From The Times' coverage: Tuesday morning's push of one and a half feet provided Seattle Tunnel Partners (STP) enough space behind Bertha’s drive motors to fasten the next concrete ring at the 1,085-foot mark of the planned 9,270-foot tube. Chris Dixon, STP project manager, is calling this a testing phase. The team is measuring how Bertha responds while rotating through heavy loads of compacted sand. Last week, a fixed steel arm in the front end broke and needed a one-day repair. ... This week’s two-day push would leave the nose of the drill just short of the north edge of the concrete vault, dug in 2014 so STP could reach and lift the 4million-pound front end for repairs. The winning bid from STP called for the tunnel to be completed this month.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Seattle's Behemoth Boring Machine, Idle Since 2013, Makes Some Progress

Comments Filter:
  • Yawn.... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 26, 2015 @09:46AM (#51185727)

    Boring.

  • by Ecuador ( 740021 ) on Saturday December 26, 2015 @09:49AM (#51185735) Homepage

    Well, I guess if it hasn't done anything since 2013 it is certainly a machine capable of boring even a behemoth!

    • I, for one, am excited to see the event didn't stop them.

      Maybe the technology will eventually become useful: building underground cities when the ozone is gone, or even tunneling for off planet settlements.

      But shite, even if nothing much comes of it, it is still spending the money on science and technology in stead of war and repression.

      • by lucm ( 889690 )

        They could have moved faster using a bunch of guys with picks and shovels.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          They could have moved faster using a bunch of guys with picks and shovels.

          Uhh, you really think a bunch of guys with no machinery beyond picks and shovels could dig out 60' x 60' x 1.5' of solid rock, hardened earth, mud, and sand, all while laying behind them the steal support rings and wire mesh and concrete walls to support the tunnel, AND relocate all that dug up material away from the dig site?

          To be comparable however that bunch of guys with only picks and shovels would need to complete the entire 2000' tunnel on time in a six year window.
          (Delays due to politicians halting a

          • Meh (Score:2, Insightful)

            by lucm ( 889690 )

            On paper you may be correct. But in real life, the "machine" did 1 mile in nearly 3 years. The theory doesn't survive reality. You can't build a real tunnel with "it should work"s.

            Compare this to the Panama Canal: 48 miles in 10 years, with the most advanced tech being steam-powered excavating machines. Not underground, but there was a mountain to go through, water to deal with, and all the jungle stuff (diseases, insects, animals).

            This Seattle thing is the worst case ever of machine worshipping and enginee

            • Re: Meh (Score:2, Insightful)

              by Anonymous Coward

              Yea, when building the Panama canal they had an endless supply of expendable bodies. When worker safety is actually a thing, large projects actually require care and planning.

          • by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Saturday December 26, 2015 @04:35PM (#51187129)

            Uhh, you really think a bunch of guys with no machinery beyond picks and shovels could dig out 60' x 60' x 1.5' of solid rock, hardened earth, mud, and sand, all while laying behind them the steal support rings and wire mesh and concrete walls to support the tunnel, AND relocate all that dug up material away from the dig site?

            Please understand I'm not meaning to advocate for the "picks and shovels" side of the argument. But FYI - Seattle already has a 110-year-old train tunnel (the "Great Northern Tunnel"), dug with picks and shovels and dynamite, that runs through pretty much the exact same area and types of soils. This new tunnel is actually going to pass under the Great Northern tunnel!

            I find it funny because a lot of people who simply don't want to spend money are using the argument that the complex soils in the area make tunneling impractical. They obviously don't know about the existing tunnel either.

            In reality, the fundamental problem here is the people making decisions tried to save a little money by digging one giant pipe rather than going with the more typical two-bore twin tunnels. When you push boundaries there are always additional risks.

            • Comparing the two tunnels is a bit unfair because the new construction is like digging 14 of the old tunnels.

              The new tunnel is circle 60' in diameter, compared to the 30' semicircular train tunnel (8 times bigger), and the new tunnel is 1.75 miles long compared to one mile(.75x8=+6). Plus, the floor of the old tunnel was flat and only required laying train tracks. The new tunnel is circular and will require a double roadway and utility spaces.

              If the new tunnel was dug with picks, shovels, and dynamite
  • Another.... (Score:3, Funny)

    by saturndude ( 609090 ) on Saturday December 26, 2015 @09:56AM (#51185757) Homepage

    Another boring story on slashdot.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I understand that when it hit the metal casing, it overheated. Couple of questions I've got that after looking, didn't find the answer:

    I thought this was capable of boring through rock, how come it couldn't go through a metal pipe? Ok, it can't go through the pipe, how could this thing not have tons of sensors capable of detecting the overheating issue?

    • by lucm ( 889690 )

      They disagree on this. The tunnel people claim it's the pipe, the state people (who put the pipe there) say it's not the pipe. I don't think we'll ever know.

    • by dbIII ( 701233 ) on Saturday December 26, 2015 @11:49AM (#51186029)
      Rock crumbles, is brittle, and has a low tensile strength even though the compressive strength is high. The sort of steel used for a pipe is none of those things.
      See also stuff designed for "soft rock" suddenly hitting Basalt.
    • by plover ( 150551 ) on Saturday December 26, 2015 @12:23PM (#51186109) Homepage Journal

      Rock is more brittle than steel. Hit rock with a hard enough cutter blade, pushing with enough force, and you will chip away at it. Hit a malleable and tough steel pipe with the same cutter blade and the same amount of force, and the blade may dig in to the steel and get caught in it.

      The operator doesn't exactly have visibility into the obstruction, so when progress stops, he may not recognize what's going wrong. He can add more force in an attempt to break through. Add enough force and something will eventually give, but there's no guarantee if it will be the obstruction that gives way, or the engine, or the power train, or the frame of his machine.

      And what kinds of sensors do you think you can deploy on the face of a giant cutting disk that will survive the thousands of horsepower of force mashing it into the earth? (Trick question, the answer is none.) About all they can effectively monitor is from the back side of the cutting face. That means indirect measurements only, like the amount of power, rotational speed, rate of travel, temperature of the cutting face, sound of the cutting face, and the composition of the tailings. It's not exactly like looking out the windshield and seeing you're about to drive into a big steel pipe. The amount of power is regulated by the operator, but what are his options when it stops going forward? It's not like he can back up and turn left to go around it. He can pretty much decide "add power" or "stay stuck".

      • And what kinds of sensors do you think you can deploy on the face of a giant cutting disk that will survive the thousands of horsepower of force mashing it into the earth? (Trick question, the answer is none.)

        Actually, I would have imagined that they'd come up with a way to measure conductivity and capacitance while in operation, and also that they would periodically stop and use some kind of ultrasound equipment to determine the composition of the material ahead. The latter is arguably the more plausible. Is that being done? If not, why not? If so, why didn't it find a big metal pipe?

        • by KGIII ( 973947 )

          Having done a whole lot of work, across this country and in others, specifically with with government workers - I can answer your questions with one word:

          Municipality.

          But, some more of the story... No, I'm not saying all government is bad. I am saying that, for whatever reason, highway/transportation departments do some amazing things but sometimes they're amazingly inept.

          Here's a Wikipedia article about the project:
          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

          Here's a section on the WSDOT site about the history (and h

          • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

            by Anonymous Coward

            If anyone's in the area and wants to find out who did the work then I just might be able to get some sort of preview about real expectations (those expectations not given in the city council meetings or in press releases) and find out any scuttlebutt - though it might be a bit dated, I suspect the modeling company and/or traffic engineers have someone either on-call or on-site and they'll be capable of recommending, designing, and remodeling - or at least collecting the data and pushing it back to be done on big iron.

            http://www.tunneltalk.com/Alaskan-Way-May10-RFP-released.php

            With determination to maintain momentum, State officials met deadline this week and issued a request for proposals to build a bored tunnel replacement of the Alaskan Way Viaduct in Seattle. Three international pre-qualified teams now have until October to return proposals ahead of a planned award of contract in January.TBM tunnelling of the 54ft (15-16m) diameter bore could start in 2013 towards a targeted official opening on December 31st, 2015.

            • by KGIII ( 973947 )

              Thanks - that pointed me in the right direction. They did it, for the most part, in-house. A recently deceased Ralph Iboshi was brought on with the design team. He passed away back in 2012(ish), as I recall. He was with KPFF (they had at least one good employ - namely Mr. Iboshi) but KPFF's name is not on any of the documents that I'm finding. I'm only finding Mr. Iboshi's name.

              It took me a minute to make the connection but you can find him listed on page 24 in this PDF:
              http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/projec... [wa.gov]

              But,

        • by plover ( 150551 )

          To take sonic readings, they'd have to shut the machine off first to eliminate the noise it would generate; even then, road noise from the surface might be too disruptive. Or maybe it was all muck, with no good way to ping it.

          They certainly should have been aware of the location of the pipe, as it was purportedly documented in the spec. Maybe there was an error in the doc, or maybe the engineers failed to notify the bore operator, or maybe the operators just weren't paying attention.

          They might be able to me

      • by gr8dude ( 832945 )

        Would a sonar do the trick? It can be placed on the surface and send pings that will help measure the density of materials on the machine's path.

  • I seem to remember that they hit a pipe and keep drilling, even though the pipe had been identified and listed in the contract?
    • by PPH ( 736903 ) on Saturday December 26, 2015 @11:06AM (#51185909)

      Yes. But the path of the tunnel runs through what is essentially an old land fill. So the machine should have been designed to deal with old steam boilers, scrap iron, chunks of concrete/rebar, etc.

      • Yes. But the path of the tunnel runs through what is essentially an old land fill. So the machine should have been designed to deal with old steam boilers, scrap iron, chunks of concrete/rebar, etc.

        It should have been designed so it could have been repaired in place if it broke. Currently waiting for it to break down again under some skyscraper in downtown.

      • by Cyberax ( 705495 )
        No, the tunnel goes BELOW the landfill. The pipe was left from a prior geological survey.
  • Get it? LOL hahahahaha

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Let's see if they can fail as badly as this [wikipedia.org] project. There's still plenty of opportunity.

  • As a Seattleite, Bertha has been a huge, expensive disappointment so far, but we all hope in our hearts that eventually this *&$%@ thing will get the job done.

    And maybe, just maybe they'll come away with some lessons learned form this kabillion dollar, 0.5mph joyride.

    • by Strider- ( 39683 )

      And maybe, just maybe they'll come away with some lessons learned form this kabillion dollar, 0.5mph joyride.

      Don't you mean 0.5mpy joyride?

      • And maybe, just maybe they'll come away with some lessons learned form this kabillion dollar, 0.5mph joyride.

        Don't you mean 0.5mpy joyride?

        Uhh, yeah. That's probably more like it. Thank god that thing costs a fortune or I'd really feel cheated.

    • Re:Not again (Score:4, Interesting)

      by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Saturday December 26, 2015 @04:19PM (#51187059)

      And maybe, just maybe they'll come away with some lessons learned form this kabillion dollar, 0.5mph joyride.

      Maybe one of those lessons is "there are risks when you try to save money by pushing the boundaries with new, untested drilling technology".

      Meanwhile the tunnels Sound Transit has been recently digging in Seattle, following ho-hum old smaller bore twin-tunnel principles, are going well - they're under budget and ahead of schedule. I am really looking forward to taking light rail to UW in a month or two! No more sitting on a bus that's stuck in traffic gridlock...

      • Meanwhile the tunnels Sound Transit has been recently digging in Seattle, following ho-hum old smaller bore twin-tunnel principles, are going well - they're under budget and ahead of schedule

        Those bastards. What can we do about this? Can we involve them in some awesome new-technology pilot project that costs billions, or are we doomed to have a successful outcome?

  • What was blocking the tunnel machine? It was the shallowest part of the tunnel. It could be an iron ship sunk 100 or 150 years ago.
    • What was blocking the tunnel machine? It was the shallowest part of the tunnel. It could be an iron ship sunk 100 or 150 years ago.

      RTFL[ink], it is right there in the summary. The digger was stopped by a metal pipe.

    • by Agripa ( 139780 )

      I hope it is not one of those Martian colony ships. Or since this is Seattle, maybe I hope it is.

      http://www.imdb.com/title/tt00... [imdb.com]

  • of private industry doing it better than government. Sitting around for two years doing nothing and still getting paid. What a job.

    Sounds a lot like insurance companies. Force people to pay up but never do the thing you've been paid to do. The greatest scam on Earth, next to religion.

    Don't worry Seattle taxpayers, this private company will use as much of your tax dollars as it takes to get the job done.

  • Whatever happened to using good old dynamite to clear the obstruction?

  • I'm guessing the poster is a native-born Seattlite, since s/he uses "The Times" to refer to the The Seattle Times, seemingly unaware the this means The New York Times or The London Times to most of the world. I lived in Seattle a couple of times, and it was clear that most people there thought that Seattle was the center of world. It wasn't and it isn't, but I wish them luck with their tunnel.
  • This week a broken steel arm in the front end was fixed.

Is it possible that software is not like anything else, that it is meant to be discarded: that the whole point is to always see it as a soap bubble?

Working...