Thursday, December 20, 2012

Big Bertha Blossoms and Brings Business

Photo credit: WSDOT
Back in September, the Washington State Department of Transportation (DOT) was boasting—with reason—about its humongous, colossal and insanely gigantic 300-foot-long, five story-tall Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM). Its 57½-foot diameter front-end will make it the world's largest machine of its kind… Heck, the universe's largest!

With its own Flickr page and animated YouTube video, the only other thing this machine needed was a name.

The Department figured the best people to ask for suggestions were our very own school-aged kids (K-12), who had until 5 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 13, to propose a name along with a 200-words-or-less explanation of their choice.

The contest's rules were that, in keeping with the tradition of naming TBMs, the winning name had to be female and should "have significance to Washington State heritage, life, nature, transportation or engineering."
Bertha Knight Landes, 1926 Seattle Mayor
The judges had to make their pick from more than 150 entries. Earlier this month DOT announced the winning name is BERTHA, after the first woman to lead a major American City, Bertha Knight Landes, who was mayor of Seattle in 1926.

The name Bertha was submitted by two entrants: Darryl Elves' fifth-grade class at Poulsbo Elementary School and Elijah Beerbower, a second-grader at Lincoln Elementary School in Hoquiam.

The winners will be invited to Bertha's official dedication ceremony in Seattle next summer, where they will receive special t-shirts and the thrill of seeing the name they chose emblazoned on the world's largest tunnel-borer.

Bertha and her voluminous dimensions are necessary to carry out the ambitious SR 99 Tunnel Project, but workers are also necessary to pull it off. Lots of skilled workers: DOT reports that the viaduct replacement program will sustain more than 3,900 jobs at the height of construction, so there's plenty to look forward to in the near future.

In the meantime, our TBM now not only has a name but also a voice, as Bertha already opened her very own Twitter account: @BerthaDigsSR99. In her latest tweet she laments that she's not on Facebook because DOT limits her social media time.

Learn more about the SR 99 Tunnel Project,

Read this story in Spanish here.