Speculation abounds: What’s blocking the $80M TBM Bertha?

BerthaDigsSR99If there ever was a time to check in on what’s happening in Seattle, it is now. No, not because the Seattle Seahawks are dominating the National Football League. The massive tunnel boring machine digging a 1.7 mile path under the city is stuck. Nicknamed Bertha, the $80 million TBM is part of a massive project — years in the planning and implementation –designed to replace the elevated double-deck highway that runs along the Seattle waterfront with a tunnel.

We can debate the merits of the project (full disclosure, I worked at Washington State Department of Transportation), but instead let’s take a moment and enjoy the tongue-in-cheek speculation around what has blocked Bertha’s path.

First, Bertha has an online persona that tweets from @BerthaDigsSR99. While the folks helping Bertha share her story typically provide updates on her boring personality, they additionally have fun with the entire idea of a life-like TBM. For instance, last week Bertha shared this:

Then, after weeks of moving along at 52 feet a day, Bertha on Friday night came upon something large blocking its path. On Monday, Bertha alerted her followers that she was fine despite rumors circulating that she was stuck, Instead, she announced that something was blocking her path. The Seattle news media picked up the story and the speculation on what was blocking Bertha’s path became a big social media. The Seattle Times even created a place for readers to post their guesses on what was blocking the TBM. The top pick was Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman.

The Bertha fun now includes a parody Twitter account, @BerthasBump, and  some helpful Twitter suggestions like this one from Twitter, “Heard you’re blocked up, @BerthaDigsSR99 – don’t turn to laxatives right off. Brussels sprouts, brown rice and beans should get you movin’.”

Of course, this is fun and the communications team seems to have things under control in the Northwest for now. But news today suggests it could be weeks before the blockage is identified and a fix is in place. So, like I said, it is a wonderful time to keep our eyes on what’s happening in Seattle, with or without the looming NFL playoffs.

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