The only good thing about Bertha is that it generated public spending during the recession.
The only good thing about Bertha is that it generated public spending during the recession. WASHINGTON STATE DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

As much as we now hate Bertha, and as correct as Dominic Holden was in pointing out the many things that could go wrong with this project, Seattle needed the megaproject because, at the time it was approved by voters, the city was in the middle of a huge recession. Do not forget that unemployment in 2011 was nearly 10 percent in Seattle. Today it's a very low 3.3 percent—which, for economists, effectively means full employment.

If the world were run by sane capitalists, Seattle and other cities should have responded to the deep post-crash recession with deficit spending on meaningful projects, like building bikeways or adding bus lanes or improving parks. This kind of expenditure would have put shovels right in the hands of the unemployed. But our world is not run by sane capitalists, and so when a recession hits, when private enterprises collapse and investors withdraw money from circulation (liquidity preference), we as a society actually do the craziest thing imaginable: we cut government spending. As a result, an inactive private sector is compounded with an inactive public sector. The solution to a bad economic situation is always to make it worse. Why? Honestly, no one really knows. But it is a hard fact of life that many people in power are committed to this way of thinking.

So, in 2010, there was only one megaproject politically available to a city with more than 10 percent unemployment. Were we really supposed to kill it and then have nothing at all? Have more of our plants and services stagnate? Send more people into unemployment? The sad thing is we live in a stupid society, and so we sometimes have to do very stupid things to survive. One such stupid thing happened to be building a tunnel that we didn't need, that made no sense in the era of climate change, and, anyway, may never work.

In The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, the greatest economist of the 20th century, John Maynard Keynes, wrote:

If the Treasury [the government] were to fill old bottles with bank-notes, bury them at suitable depths in disused coal-mines which are then filled up to the surface with town rubbish, and leave it to private enterprise on well-tried principles of laissez-faire [private businesses] to dig the notes up again (the right to do so being obtained, of course, by tendering for leases of the note-bearing territory), there need be no more unemployment and, with the help of repercussions, the real income of the community, and its capital wealth, would probably become a good deal greater than it actually is.
Bertha is nothing but Seattle's "old bottles with bank-notes" buried in the ground. Many of our local and regional private enterprises have been kept busy in this bizarre business of digging up those old bottles that were buried by the public.

The problem now is the recession is over for Seattle, and we do not need any more of those old bottles. It's best we stop, close shop, and thank Bertha for giving the city something stupid to do at a time it desperately needed something to do. Again, in a sane world (run by sane capitalists—also known as socialists), Seattle would have spent money on socially useful shovel-ready projects. But in a world that is not sane, it is better to have people dig up rubbish than do nothing at all and sink into poverty.