Via social media, phone calls and emails, people brainstormed plans ranging from preserving the massive machine’s cutterface with art installations to revving it up for another tunnel-boring project.
Last week, Traffic Lab asked readers to brainstorm ideas for what they think should become of Bertha’s front end now that the machine’s 1.7-mile dig underneath downtown Seattle is complete.
Via social media, phone calls and emails, people shared plans ranging from preserving the massive cutterface with local art displays to revving the machine up for another tunnel-boring project in the area.
In the end, Hitachi Zosen, the machine’s builder, owns Bertha’s parts. Crews now are cutting up and lifting sections of the machine’s front-end steel, with plans to pull the machine’s rear conveyors, walkways and hoses back through the tunnel. Other pieces will likely be melted and recycled.
Hitachi Zosen has said it would gladly consider leaving part of Bertha in Seattle as a public artifact.
That would please some readers who contacted the newspaper. A selection of responses are below, some of which have been edited for length and clarity.
Top destination: Seattle’s Museum of History & Industry
“I think we should save Bertha, but I’m not particular about the funding method. I like the MOHAI idea because it seems most realistic. I hope they mount it outside standing up so we can see the majesty of its size. I can imagine it maybe having a view of the Space Needle through its center. I can already see the pictures everyone will take.”
— Tim Narby, Wedgwood
Or, the Seattle Art Museum’s Olympic Sculpture Park?
“Put the parts in the Olympic Sculpture park for an installation that, of course, shows the actual hardware, but also a 3-D projection of a tunnel. Have the animation show the cutting heads in motion. Make it interactive so you can stand in the image and have Bertha cut through you. Speed would be variable.”
— Ben Van Dusen, Snohomish County
Keep the tunnel-boring going
“We should reassemble the machine at the south end of Beacon Hill and tunnel through Beacon Hill to Capitol Hill, emerging near Highway 520 to create a downtown bypass. We could get two tunnels for the price of one machine and solve two troubled traffic areas.”
— Wayne Journee, South Seattle
A gift to the masses
“Let’s divide it in little pieces and distribute those among taxpayers that funded it. … I would love to have a little piece of Bertha to remember the pains and the victory.”
— Veronica Luongo, Belltown
Keep the parts close
“I’d love to see the cutterhead mounted somewhere in the SAM sculpture garden or elsewhere in Myrtle Edwards Park. It seems like a natural fit given the existing public artwork and proximity to the tunnel itself.”
— David Basiji, Seattle
Preserve the ‘cutting-edge’ technology
“Given the huge size of the machine, the status of the megaproject bound up with the hope and dream of a future world-class waterfront, and the community fame attached to Bertha, every effort should be made to keep as much of the tunnel-boring machine here as logistically and financially possible.
“MOHAI would seem to be the best option. Ideally, the museum should be allowed to preserve the machine’s whole cutterface. But at the very least, it should be able to keep some of Bertha’s 700-plus teeth.
“The tunnel-lining ring erector arm would make for a fascinating installation with a few of the spare tunnel lining rings that still exist. The controller’s console, which was used to move the rings into place, could make for a good display, as well.
“The tunnel-machine console room would also be a great addition as part of a special room at MOHAI. I am sure the people who worked on the tunnel project would want to see some preservation of their hard work in this specially-designed room. They did work days, nights, and many weekends.
“Or, maybe an art installation displaying different parts of the tunnel shield, forward thruster jacks, and elaborate trailing gear at Gas Works Park? Perhaps artists could make a pillar of soil samples from the different stages of tunneling?
“This has been a huge project that has been at the cutting edge of tunnel technology. Even some of the designs for the safety systems for the Highway 99 tunnel are revolutionary. The technology behind those designs has had to keep pace with expectations for a world-class tunnel.”
— Tim Whittome, Renton
A sculptor’s vision
“My intuitive reaction, as a sculptor, was a vision of the primary cutterface arms representing the cardinal directions of a compass. This would invoke the innumerable controversies surrounding the Bertha project, as well as the machine’s ultimate triumph. The scale alone would be profound. Coupled with the myriad of metals and mechanical components in the cutterface, this display would truly be a representation of the project that ultimately found its true north.
“My vision has Bertha’s cutterface rising angularly from the earth with one of the arms oriented true north. I’m inspired enough to at least render a scale drawing.”
— Rolphe White, North Seattle