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With torches and a crane, crews dismantle Bertha’s massive cutter head chunk by chunk

Crews are chopping up Bertha’s massive cutter head and hauling the pieces away to be melted down and recycled. The disassembly is employing dozens of workers, in addition to those building the road decks inside the Highway 99 tunnel.

Within a few days, the final pieces of tunnel-boring machine Bertha’s famed cutting disc will be removed and taken to a scrap-metal yard.

Only two of the eight longest spokes, plus the center, remained Friday afternoon, after a pair of workers wielding high-power torches sliced away another 100,000-pound piece — still a mere one-third of a spoke.

Even in afterlife, Bertha continues to generate jobs.

Frontier-Kemper, the disassembly subcontractor, employs 50 people. They are beginning to remove arc-shaped shield pieces and hydraulic thrusters behind the cutter head. Dozens of other workers, predominantly local union members, remain on the job with Seattle Tunnel Partners (STP), continuing to build the road decks of the Highway 99 tunnel.

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Crane operators hoist the rusty spoke segments over the north maintenance building next to Aurora Avenue North, then lay them in the dirt, to be cut again so they’re light enough to truck out.

On Friday, Bertha looked like a hockey player who had caught too many sticks in the mouth.

More than 35 lifts will be needed to remove all the pieces from the pit near Seattle Center where Bertha’s trip under downtown Seattle ended. The giant drill’s re-usable trailing gear, more than 200 feet long, will be extracted mainly through the rear of the 1.7-mile tunnel in Sodo.

Flatbed trucks carry the scrap crosstown to Seattle Iron & Metals Corp. in the Duwamish industrial area. There, three more workers carve the spokes into yet smaller chunks.

“We’ve been locally owned and family operated since 1925. We’re pretty proud to be involved with Bertha and this project,” said Adam Thomas, a steel buyer…

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