Chances are, none of those school children trying to guess what was blocking Bertha picked a 8-inch-diameter steel pipe that everyone should have known was down there.
Why? Because kids have amazing imaginations, and such a conclusion would have been fucking stupid.
Yet, according to the Washington State Department of Transportation, an 8-inch steel pipe - or, “a well casing installed by WSDOT in 2002 after the 2001 Nisqually earthquake to better understand how groundwater flows through this area,” as WSDOT.gov describes it - is EXACTLY what has prevented the Highway 99 tunnel-maker from moving since Dec. 6. While other factors may have played a part in Bertha’s nearly month-long hiatus, including “changing soil conditions that may have caused excessive wear of cutting tools, potential objects in front of the cutterhead or objects in the lower portion of the excavation chamber that still aren’t visible,” according to WSDOT, it appears a pipe that WSDOT itself put in the ground less than 12 years ago is the anticlimactic culprit behind the deep-bore mystery that gripped Seattle.
Driving the stupidity home, according to WSDOT: “The location of this pipe was included in reference materials in the contract.”
“I don’t want people to say WSDOT didn’t know where its own pipe was, because it did,” DOT spokesman Lars Erickson told the Seattle Times today, prior to a 2 p.m. press conference where DOT officials were to offer information on what’s next, and how the pipe is to be removed.
This would all be hilarious, of course, if it wasn’t true.
UPDATE: According to the Times: “Chris Dixon, project director for contractor group Seattle Tunnel Partners, said the builders presumed there would be no pipe in the way, because casings are customarily removed after use.”