Photo: Friends of Waterfront Seattle

Gigantic boring machine Bertha finally broke on through to the other side this week. The 326-foot long tunneling machine finished its journey on Tuesday, leaving a 1.7 mile tunnel beneath Seattle. The underground tunnel will replace a section of SR 99 that currently runs over the earthquake-damaged Alaskan Way Viaduct.

“This truly is a remarkable feat of engineering,” Transportation Secretary Roger Millar said in a press release. “We’ve had delays and there’s still work to be done, but the folks working on this job should be justifiably proud of today’s milestone.”

Workers will now cut 7,982-ton Bertha into hundreds of 20-ton pieces, so they can crane them out and carry them away, reports WIRED. They’ll decide if parts can be used on other projects, or if they should be recycled. The clearing process will take several months.

Next on the agenda is the removal of the Alaskan Way Viaduct, slated for 2019, followed by construction of a new waterfront. A project overview put together by the City of Seattle’s Waterfront Seattle program describes a plan to rebuild the Elliott Bay Seawall and add 20 acres of new public space, improved connections between center city neighborhoods, and new Alaskan Way and Elliott Way surface streets for bikers, drivers and pedestrians.

“Think about having 26 blocks from Pioneer Square to Belltown with something like the Olympic Sculpture Park in the middle,” Heidi Hughes, executive director of Friends of Waterfront Seattle told KING5. “You remember when you could go to concerts on the piers, when you could come to the waterfront to hear great music? We want to do that and more with 26 blocks of programmable public space. You can come and listen to music, play soccer, have a fun day with your family, all without spending a dollar.”

Part of the new waterfront includes the Pike Place MarketFront, which broke ground in June 2015. MarketFront is a waterfront-facing westward expansion of Pike Place Market featuring new small businesses, farmers, senior housing, public art and a new neighborhood center. According to the Seattle Office of the Waterfront, “the expansion will provide views of Elliott Bay from a public plaza, new dining, shopping and entertainment opportunities, additional public parking and low-income housing for seniors.” In celebration of the project’s completion, MarketFront is hosting a Grand Opening on June 29, 2017.

With Bertha’s successful emergence into the sunlight and drizzle, Seattle can now anticipate big changes to our historic waterfront.

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