For Lease: Tunnel. One of a kind. Never used.

If Bertha can't be fixed, some ideas about what to do with that very large hole in the ground.
The hole that Bertha built.

The hole that Bertha built. WSDOT

Okay, Bertha is busted; and not in a good way. If it turns out she can’t be fixed, what are we going to do with that worm hole she managed to dig before sputtering to a stop in early December. We really need a Plan B, one in which Bertha’s tube becomes, not an ignominious icon of failed engineering, but a civic cash cow.

You have to admit it’s a unique venue. Five stories high, more than three city blocks long! Hey Portland, you think you’re quirky? 

Think of the storage potential: You could tuck the Space Needle inside. Sort of like what people used to do with their fur coats in summertime. Throw in some cedar chips to keep the moths away and close the door. The 605-foot-high Needle would slide in with room to spare. Except for the saucer. We’d have to crimp that a bit.

Remember when everybody thought Bertha had bumped into some ancient buried train or ship hull? I can’t be the only one disappointed upon learning she hit a pipe. Seriously? A pipe? No romance in that.

Maybe we could shoehorn an old ship hull or a train into our new subterranean cylinder. A massive ship-in-a-bottle display would pay tribute to those early theories about what stalled Bertha. Tourists would pay top dollar to take selfies next to it.

Even better, let’s put the Columbia Center in there. With a little nipping and tucking, the tube is a perfect place to hide that horribly dated ‘80s relic. I shudder to think that in 25 more years it could actually qualify as a historic landmark. Let’s quietly get rid of it now.

Maybe we could lease the tunnel out for special events, like tailgating before Seahawks’ games. Picture 250 RV’s side-by-side with barbeques and beer and folding tables full of buns and condiments. Under the ground. The all-day drinking and 12th Man chanting would disturb no one. 

We could use it to cellar wine — lots of wine — or turn it into the world’s longest brew pub. Imagine one very looooong table of foam-topped schooners. Any sloshing beer would flow, via gravity, to the low end where it could then be captured and recycled.

Or. We could use the tube to satisfy a longstanding Pioneer Square desire for public toilets. Think 600 pay stalls just a few short paces from First Avenue, but entirely out of sight. And smell.

We could save a bunch of money and put a new basketball arena in there. Of course, we’d have to petition the NBA to change its official court dimensions. But, hey, it’s worth a try. They’re a cooperative bunch. And companies from Oscar Meyer to Trojan would be lining up for the naming rights.

Wait, wait. Amazon’s always looking for new space. How about a new fulfillment center? Or drone factory! Neither needs windows, and delivery drones could just fly out the open end. Or we could just give the tunnel to Montlake. The neighborhood’s been begging for a tunnel to replace the 520 Bridge. Turns out we have one to spare. It’s just a matter of logistics.

Frankly, I’m surprised Boeing hasn’t stepped forward with a plan to commandeer the tunnel for fuselage construction. It’s just about the right diameter.

OK, I know what you’re thinking. Can’t we just fill the hole with dirt and pretend it never happened? Like the state did when it discovered that the $75 million pontoon construction yard it excavated in Port Angeles was on the site of a Native burial ground. That never happened.

As for me, I’m in the pretend-it-never-happened camp. Let’s just fill Bertha's tunnel with pieces of the viaduct, seal it up and walk away.

Mark Hinshaw, FAIA, is an architect and urban planner at a Seattle architecture firm. He was an architecture critic for "The Seattle Times" and is the author of many articles and books, including "Citistate Seattle" (1999). He can be reached at editor@crosscut.com.


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Comments:

Posted Sat, Feb 22, 10:37 a.m. Inappropriate

The sides look like a perfect fit for a skateboard park, or maybe a snowboard half pipe.

sjenner

Posted Sat, Feb 22, 10:14 p.m. Inappropriate

Tent city could always have a permanent place to settle down. Lets look on pinterest for ideas of how many bunks we could squeeze in there!

newone

Posted Sun, Feb 23, 1:01 a.m. Inappropriate

Well, with the 2020 Winter Olympics just around the corner, why stop at 1/2 pipe competitions. What's wrong with full pipe events. All the exploratory pits could become bleacher sections after the window panels go in. Climate control that deep is a breeze.
C'mon Seattle, thing bigger.

007

Posted Sun, Feb 23, 1:41 p.m. Inappropriate

WSDOT office complex, with cutaway plexiglass so we can see how the ants work. Obviously the viewing chamber for the public would be outside the tube, kind of like a fish window. Anyone seen Monuments Men? Gold bullion the state has plundered from taxpayers plus Hammering man laying in a giant mine cart?

Posted Sun, Feb 23, 8:26 p.m. Inappropriate

Perfect idea ... Bertha could be used to store the 2 Satsop nuclear towers out by Elma, they've never been used either.

Posted Mon, Feb 24, 10:34 a.m. Inappropriate

You've almost got it already -- just tinker with the "hole" and make a "hotel."

sandik

Posted Wed, Feb 26, 9:31 a.m. Inappropriate

Maybe a 20,000 leagues under the sea hotel.

Posted Mon, Feb 24, 2:17 p.m. Inappropriate

Companion facility to aquarium
Giant filter for reprocessing waste water
Racetrack for sea horses
Columbarium
Oyster farm
Dildo manufacturing facility
Reality tv show site: escape from puget sound!!
Repository for bad ideas
Repository for badly executed ideas

neonative

Posted Tue, Feb 25, 6:43 p.m. Inappropriate

Does anyone remember the children's story Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel?

[spoiler]Once the Steam Shovel (Mary Anne) became stuck in the hole, the town had to find another use for the no-longer digging, but still serviceable equipment -- I blogged about it a last month, because it's exactly what the Bertha mess reminds me of.

http://carfreedays.com/2014/01/24/rebertha-what-to-do-with-a-large-hole/

Great White Shark tank and Pacific Science Center annex are my favorite uses so far. But I'm open to anything fun or useful.

cfdtim

Posted Sun, Mar 2, 6:54 a.m. Inappropriate

A friend suggested we just let the viaduct continue to sink until it goes into the ground and use that as the tunnel.

Posted Sun, Mar 2, 9:06 a.m. Inappropriate

just for the sake of truth in media its not a tunnel until it has a hole at both ends..its a cave..and nothing could better represent the agenda of city hall better..

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