Big Bertha Lawsuits—Hitachi Zosen Weighs In

January 31, 2018
John P. Ahlers – Ahlers Cressman & Sleight PLLC

In a recent article published by Seattle Business Magazine, the Japanese manufacturer of the much-maligned tunnel machine (nicknamed “Bertha”) provided its version of events and its position to the public. The interview took place after executives from Hitachi Zosen were not invited to the ceremony celebrating Bertha’s breakthrough at the end of its two-mile journey underground Seattle. Ultimately, apparently, Seattle Tunnel Partners (“STP”), the general contractor for the project, and Washington State Department of Transportation (“WSDOT”) agreed that Hitachi Zosen executives could attend the event, but they were not allowed to stand with other dignitaries on a specially-built viewing platform. The $3.2 billion Alaska Way Viaduct replacement project is embroiled in a number of legal controversies. Now that the tunnel is finished, Hitachi Zosen has finally decided to tell its side of the story.

Hitachi’s problems started on December 5, 2013, three days after the tunnel-boring machine (“TBM”) hit a 120-foot long, eight-inch diameter steel well casing (the project DRB has determined that the pipe was a differing site condition), the TBM overheated and ground to a halt. The project was shut down almost two years while the TBM was being repaired. According to Hitachi Zosen, it always worked hard to get the job done. “We wanted to finish the tunnel and make Seattle happy with the results,” said Hidetoshi Hirata, the general manager for Hitachi Zosen.

Mr. Ahlers may be contacted at


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