Sound Transit cut the cute names (Brenda and Pamela) for its boring machines. Why? To avoid confusion with Bertha, the Highway 99 project’s troubled tunneler, officials say.
Sound Transit’s boring machines are getting more … boring.
The agency is now calling Brenda and Pamela, which have been burrowing a route that stretches from Northgate to Husky Stadium, tunnel-boring machine 1 and tunnel-boring machine 2, respectively.
You can thank (or blame) Seattle’s other tunnel-boring machine, Bertha, for the name change. Bertha is working on the Washington State Department of Transportation’s Highway 99 replacement project, and Sound Transit doesn’t want anyone to get the tunnelers mixed up, said Kimberly Reason, a spokeswoman for the agency.
“There’s just been a lot of confusion between all the TBMs (tunnel-boring machines) operating in Seattle’s central downtown area — specifically, confusion with what was nicknamed Brenda and Bertha,” Reason said.
“People confuse our projects, which agency is overseeing which project, and which machines are doing which work. The human names, the gender-specific names, are easily confused.”
It’s perhaps not all that surprising that Sound Transit wants its machines to keep their identities distinct from Bertha’s. The Highway 99 project is more than two years behind schedule, and problems have sprung up in whack-a-mole fashion.
Sound Transit’s tunnel-boring machines have fared better. TBM 2 ( formerly known as Pamela) was damaged earlier this year, but project leaders last month said the Northgate extension should open in 2021, as scheduled.
Sound Transit’s new CEO, Peter Rogoff, was personally involved in the name change.
“It was a team decision, and he was part of the conversation,” Reason said.
The boring machines were originally named after the wives of two managers working for the contractor, Reason said.
“It’s generally a tradition for the owner of the machine to nickname the TBMs,” Reason said.
But in the end, Sound Transit decided the names were too cute.
“Naming the machine after an individual just doesn’t reflect what the machine is. People can start to personify the machine. It can be an affectionate thing to do, but it doesn’t reflect the work these machines do,” Reason said.