MOHAI takes Bertha’s control-room consoles for a future display

Two control-room consoles and four cutting pieces from retired tunnel-boring machine Bertha will be displayed someday at the Museum of History & Industry.

Someday, your kids can imagine themselves at the helm of tunnel-boring machine Bertha while visiting the Museum of History & Industry.

The museum accepted a gift of two control-room consoles Friday from Hitachi Zosen, which built the world-record cylindrical excavator.

MOHAI also trucked away a 1,000-pound pre-cutting disc, one of dozens that were fastened to the spinning cutterhead of the retired machine. Like a farmer’s disc trailer, these blades broke the surface so smaller 75-pound bits could follow and crumble the dirt.

David Unger, director of MOHAI’s curatorial services, says the Highway 99 tunnel ranks in Seattle history with the flattening of Denny Hill, straightening the Duwamish River, filling the Elliott Bay shoreline or carving the Interstate 5 corridor.

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Though Bertha’s excavation was concealed underground, it’s inextricably linked to the coming demise of the Alaskan Way Viaduct, built in 1953.

“It feels like the viaduct has always been there, but in the ’50s the waterfront looked completely different,” Unger said. “It’s shaped how people travel, shaped where people live, shaped how people made money.”

The job reshaped politics, too. The 2009 decision by Gov. Chris Gregoire and the Legislature to replace the elevated highway launched disputes about whether or how Seattle should discourage private vehicles, as congestion and global temperatures increase. Urban planner Cary Moon, who gained local fame opposing the tunnel, is running for mayor, and currently in second place behind former U.S. attorney Jenny Durkan in this month’s primary vote counts.

And lawsuits persist over whether contractor Seattle Tunnel Partners can make the state or insurers cover some $600 million in overruns for…

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