By Bill Glazier, February 28, 2015
MACHINERY FAILS – They call it “Bertha,” a massive tunnel-boring machine that arrived Seattle in July 2013. Seattle city officials expected a tunnel underneath the city to be completed this year. The machinery has remained motionless since December 2013 after it was damaged. Now no one in the City of Seattle is saying when work will restart and be completed.
It might be fascinating, admits South Pasadena City Manager Sergio Gonzalez, talking about a boring machine that could work its way under the city someday, but the reality is they can fail miserably.
A case in point in what might happen close to home, explained Gonzalez, can be found in the Northwest where an underground tunnel project has been less than successful. The “Bertha” drilling machine, as it is known to those living in Seattle, got stuck in the ground not long after arriving in 2013. Only 11 percent of a two-mile tunnel route is complete to date. City officials can’t confirm when the project will resume or be completed, yet some are projecting sometime in 2017 – long past its 2015 timetable.
“The boring machine broke down more than a year ago,” stressed Gonzalez. “It’s broken down, stalled. Not only is it causing cost overruns, but it’s causing physical damage to the area.”
In Seattle, a 120-foot-deep pit has been dug to allow a giant crane to pull out the “Bertha” drilling machine and repair it.
Metro is expected to release a draft Environmental EIR/EIS report by the end of the month. It will provide information about the best way to close the State Route 710 between its terminus just outside the Alhambra city limits to Pasadena after studying five proposed options. They range from leaving the 4.5-mile gap alone to implementing traffic signal upgrades and synchronization, increasing bus service, making better use of light rail, and, finally building a tunnel freeway, much of which would go under South Pasadena.
Gonzalez already suspects the latter.
“The reality is machine’s fail,” stressed the city manager, explaining that the City Council is reaching out to the City of Seattle to learn more about the failure of “Bertha” as Metro looks at the idea of a tunnel under South Pasadena.
“We’re very concerned about it,” said Gonzalez. “We want to make it clear to our residents that we are going to continue to fight as smart and hard as we can to prevent a 60-foot in diameter hole from being drilled under our city. There are much better ways to improve mobility in the region, create jobs and improve air quality than having to spend billions of taxpayer dollars on a dream of a project that will most-likely fail.”
South Pasadena City Council members approved a letter going to the Seattle Councilman Mike O’Brien, an opponent of the tunnel project in that city. “We want to partner with the City of Seattle because the same thing could happen here. Our letter states that we may be going down the same path and we’re very concerned.”