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Alaskan Way Viaduct

Transportation Nation

The Tradition Of Naming Tunneling Machines

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Bertha, on board the Fairpartner, in Elliot Bay (photo by Bow Jones)

(Derek Wang - Seattle, KUOW)  Bertha is here. The world’s largest tunnel boring machine arrived in Seattle Tuesday after being shipped from Japan. It’s expected to reach land sometime this week. After that, in a few months, it will get to work drilling the tunnel that will replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct.

The Washington State Department of Transportation named the machine, Bertha, after Seattle’s first female mayor, Bertha Knight Landes. The name was suggested by two school kids who won WSDOT’s naming contest.

According to Linea Laird, WSDOT’s tunnel project administrator, the tradition and practice of naming tunneling machines dates back to the earliest mining traditions.

“Originally, it was part of the patron saints of protection of underground workers,” she said. “There would be even a little shrine that would be established there for the workers.”

Laird says the name of the saint gave the miners something personal that they could relate to as they did their dangerous work. Paying homage to their saints evolved into naming tunneling machines.

Naming is commonplace in the tunneling industry these days. Miami named its machine after Harriet Tubman. And Sound Transit named two machines Balto and Togo, after two famous Husky dogs that inspired the Iditarod. And the tunneling machines boring new subway tunnels under the streets of New York City bear a variety of names, including Molina, Georgina, and TESS.

Chris Dixon is supervising the contractors who will be operating Bertha. He’s been in the tunneling business for decades.

“There were two machines that drove tunnels on one contract on the Los Angeles Metro Red Line subway, they called them Thelma and Louise.” Dixon says another machine used in Puerto Rico was named after the wife of a contracting executive.

Laird concedes that the name Bertha might not be the prettiest. But she says the name conjures up something that is big, solid and has a down-home quality to it. That, Laird says, seems like an appropriate description of Bertha’s new home: Seattle.

Here's WSDOT's map of places to go to get a good look at Bertha.

Follow Derek Wang on Twitter.

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Transportation Nation

TN MOVING STORIES: San Diego's Transportation Plan Pleases No One, Metro-North Parking In Short Supply, and Why Are Today's Car Paint Colors So Boring?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Top stories on TN:

Democrats are trying -- unsuccessfully so far -- to make headway in getting the president's transportation spending package passed. (Link)

A corgi dressed as a NYC bus won a Halloween dog costume contest. (Link)

(photo by Mirsasha via Flickr)

New York Times editorial: we hope Cuomo's appointments to the Port Authority and the MTA mean "the governor is ready to get in the game" -- and that he'll return the administrators' calls.

New York Daily News editorial: MTA head Joe Lhota has to figure out how to stop Albany from raiding transit money and hold the line on fare hikes.

The Bay Area's two dozen transit system face a $25 billion shortfall over the next 25 years. (San Francisco Examiner)

The proposed route for California's high-speed rail will "destroy churches, schools, private homes, shelters for low-income people, animal processing plants, warehouses, banks, medical offices, auto parts stores, factories, farm fields, mobile home parks, apartment buildings and much else as it cuts through the richest agricultural belt in the nation and through some of the most depressed cities in California." (Los Angeles Times)

A NY MTA board member from Staten Island says it's unfair his borough is the only one that has to pay a toll to get off the island, says he wants to toll 12 NYC river crossings. (Staten Island Advance)

Alaskan Way viaduct demolition: it's happening. (Seattle Post Intelligencer)

Also in Seattle: one out of every four roads is in serious disrepair, which critics say is the result of the city's "fix the worst first" policy. (Seattle Times)

San Diego's $214 billion transportation plan pleases neither transit advocates nor drivers. (North County Times)

Parking is in short supply at Metro-North station lots in Connecticut, where the wait list for a parking sticker can stretch past six years. (Wall Street Journal)

Passenger assaults on NYC bus drivers are up 20%. (New York Daily News)

Why were car paint colors so great in the 1960s and 1970s--and why are they so boring now?  (Slate)

 

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