Tag Archives: Alaska Way

Why is Bertha so hard to reach?

The in basket: I see that Bertha, the moribund tunneling machine in Seattle, continues to make news on the TV stations, this time regarding the danger of digging the pit to reach it for repairs.

I felt a little dumb about asking the following question, which I had never heard addressed in all the coverage of the machine’s problems, but I asked anyway. Why can’t they just back it out of the tunnel it dug to get to the damaged boring surface, rather than digging a huge hole. That’s what I do when a drill bit gets stuck.

The out basket: Laura Newborn, media relations manager for the Alaska Way Viaduct replacement project, replied, “The answer to your question is straightforward: The machine can’t move backward because it is building a tunnel as goes. It’s how bored tunnels are dug. So the hole is actually smaller on the back end. She referred me to the Web site https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=guWkPRReUaE, an animated representation of what went on behind Bertha as it moved forward.

Seattle ferry off-loading rules puzzle reader

The in basket: Tom Wisniewski writes, “Is there any rhyme or reason in the direction one is forced to go when unloading from the Bainbridge or Bremerton ferries in Seattle?

“Some times you are allowed to select either using the north exit and going up Marion Street or turning north or south on Alaskan Way,” he said. “Other times you are forced to use the south exit and proceed south on Alaskan Way.

“Recently, while watching a Bainbridge ferry unload, traffic was initially forced to use the south exit and then about half-way through the unloading process, drivers were given the option of using either exit, and then the last few vehicles were again forced to use the south exit.

“I once asked a ferry employee about this on a game day,” Tom said. “I was told that since there was so much pedestrian traffic everyone had to go south, which seemed strange to send hundreds of vehicles toward the stadiums if there were so many pedestrians.

“Being forced to go south at times is very frustrating if your business is taking you north or east as the first opportunity to turn doesn’t come until you reach King Street and have to deal with the Pioneer Square area,” he concluded.

The out basket: Here is the rhyme and reason, as provided by Susan Harris-Huether of the ferries public information office. It all depends on how many of what kind of ferry user is on the Seattle dock, she said.

1. When Bremerton and Bainbridge ferries arrive at the same time, Bremerton goes south and Bainbridge goes north. If a Bremerton or Bainbridge boat arrives while the other is offloading, we will adjust the offloading to accommodate both ferries, i.e. stop off loading north etc.

2.  If ferries are running late, we off-load to the south because it is faster. The Marion Street signal cycles about every 2 minutes and adds time to our offloading process. To make up the time, we will offload south as there is more holding room on the dock for offloading vehicles plus the (southern) light cycles are much longer.

3. If there is a great deal of traffic on the dock, including bicyclists, pedestrians from vehicles milling about with their dogs etc., we will off load south from Bremerton for safety reasons.

4. When there is an event at Safeco or Qwest field, we frequently off load to the south and the reasons have to do with Marion Street and Alaskan Way.  Pedestrians cross against the light continually at the ferry intersection and cars block the intersection, which is caused by excess traffic. The same happens at Western and at First, impacting our ability to offload our ferries in eight minutes (remember the two-minute cycle of the light) which results in late departures of ferries.

5. When conditions are normal, we allow access to both the north and north gates.