John Metcalfe is CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, based in Oakland. His coverage focuses on climate change and the science of cities.
This glorious, cinematic drone footage commemorates four long years of digging.
An ominous, teeth-chattering rumbling; a sudden and great gout of muddy liquid; showers of falling rock and pouring water—this footage of Seattle’s Bertha finally emerging from the ground is almost like a lost scene of a sandworm attack from David Lynch’s Dune.
The world’s largest tunnel borer saw the light of day on Tuesday after its four-year journey eating through a 1.7-mile underground passageway. To celebrate, the Washington State Department of Transportation yesterday released this fantastically cinematic drone video of the machine breaking through a five-foot-thick concrete wall inside a deep pit. The immense size of the borer’s cutterhead isn’t easy to comprehend here; the above photo puts it into perspective that this is a five-story-tall maw built for god-sized grinding.
If all goes according to schedule, the tunnel will open as a two-level roadway in 2019 to replace an old viaduct that’s susceptible to earthquake damage. In the weeks ahead, work crews will reward Bertha’s job-well-done by sacrificing her—aiding her removal from ground by slicing her into parts, some for reuse in future jobs and others just for recycling.