Bertha needs a lot of help to build the SR 99 tunnel

When Bertha arrives in Seattle in spring 2013, she’ll bring with her plenty of excitement. But the project she’s a part of has already brought something very important to Washington: jobs.

Construction to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct is boosting the local and regional economies. Seattle Tunnel Partners (STP), our contractor for the tunnel project, is a joint venture between Dragados USA and Tutor Perini Corp. STP’s team includes several local firms, among them Frank Coluccio Construction and HNTB Corp. Eighty-five percent of STP’s sub-contracts – including contractors, consultants and suppliers – are with firms located in Washington. Local labor figures prominently into our efforts as well, with the viaduct replacement program sustaining more than 3,900 jobs at the height of construction.

Still, we get a lot of questions about why Bertha was built in Japan, rather than America. The answer is pretty straightforward: her size and complexity. At 57.5 feet in diameter and more than 300 feet long, Bertha is roughly the same size as some of Washington State Ferries' largest vessels. And while the world has seen its share of tunnel boring machines, it has never seen one this big. Only a handful of facilities in the world are capable of such an undertaking. One of them is Hitachi Zosen Corp. in Japan, the firm that was selected for the job.

So while Bertha was built abroad, the SR 99 Tunnel Project is local. You can see it for yourself: our crews hard at work to the west of Seattle’s stadiums, building the massive pit where Bertha will begin her historic journey next summer – with a little help from her friends, of course.