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October 31, 2014 at 9:04 PM

New tunnel-machine bearing arrives from Japan

Hitachi built a new seal ring in Japan for its stranded tunnel-boring machine, and it arrived Friday at Seattle’s Terminal 46.

The state Department of Transportation tweeted photos of new seal ring, as well as the new bearing.

The new bearing block, to be installed this winter inside tunnel machine Bertha

The new bearing block, to be installed this winter inside tunnel machine Bertha (WSDOT photo)

Previously, Seattle Tunnel Partners (STP) said it kept a spare bearing, a requirement of its $1.44 billion contract to build the four-lane Highway 99 tunnel from Sodo to South Lake Union.  In early December, the rotary cutting drive overheated, and grit penetrated the rubber seals that protect the German-made bearing. The new Hitachi seal ring contains stiffer material, and the front end generally will be strengthened by steel rods and plates.

oyster

Small Olympia oyster shell next to a Pacific oyster shell (Seattle Times photo).

A deep repair vault is being excavated in front of tunnel machine Bertha so STP can remove and replace the main components, with hopes to resume drilling in March. But this week, archaeologists have taken over the repair pit to investigate a deposit of shells. As of Thursday, the team found small Olympia oyster shells  and butter clams, but no sign of human remains, nor Native American artifacts — so its work might be finished soon.

Comments | More in Traffic & Transit | Topics: bertha, Highway 99 tunnel

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