SEATTLE -

The head of Washington state's Transportation Department is telling lawmakers she's had concerns about a highway tunneling project under downtown Seattle since the digging began last July -- and has asked the operators for information, including a plan to regain lost time.

  The Seattle Times reports that in her note, Lynn Peterson says she has concerns about operations and critical systems with the tunneling machine named Bertha. She says her department has discussed the concerns with contracting team Seattle Tunnel Partners.

The new Highway 99 tunnel is part of the project to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct. After earlier delays, the machine has been halted since Dec. 6 by a blockage.

Seattle Tunnel Partners plans to send a crew to the machine's cutting face to look for obstructions and damage. The work will be done in compressed but breathable air. The machine is stuck 60 feet deep.

Officials say the machine hit a steel pipe but that's believed to be only part of the problem.