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Highway Tunneling Machine Bertha Breaks Into Rescue Pit

File photo of Bertha's 57.5-foot-diameter cutterhead.

The cutterhead on Seattle's troubled tunnel boring machine broke through the wall of a rescue pit at midday Thursday.

This is just the beginning of a complicated repair plan. Next, crews plan to remove the front of the balky machine and pull it out of the pit.

Governor Jay Inslee tempered his pleasure at getting good news on the contentious highway tunneling project.

"People have to understand there is going to have to be a lot of work on this machine to get it operable,” he said. “It is great to see movement, but there's a long ways to go."

The huge machine nicknamed Bertha is supposed to dig a highway tunnel to replace a viaduct along the Seattle waterfront. The machine overheated and stalled deep underground more than a year ago.

Tweets by @BerthaDigsSR99

Now semi-retired, Tom Banse covered national news, business, science, public policy, Olympic sports and human interest stories from across the Northwest. He reported from well known and out–of–the–way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events unfolded. Tom's stories can be found online and were heard on-air during "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" on NPR stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.