Akron's Massive Machine Is Nearly Ready to Bore Under Downtown

May 26, 2017

Akron’s billion-dollar sewer project includes cutting a 30-foot high, mile-long tunnel under downtown. A special boring machine is being put together for that. It’s called Rosie -- for Rosie the Riveter -- and Rosie is really big. 

Project Engineer Elisa Comis
Credit Tim Rudell / WKSU

Imagine a 747, its wings folded back, pushing along 160 feet below ground. Rosie is bigger-around, longer, and --  at 1,100 tons -- a good bit heavier.

At the site in Solon where Rosie was assembled for testing, project engineer Elisa Comis explains how the machine’s ‘macro-parts’—like the cutter head and its shields—will now be taken back apart for the move to Akron.

“Each shield is divided in three parts. And the cutter head itself is in four part. So we’ll disassembling this in macro-parts and put it on trucks.”

Comis says only a couple of pieces, like the huge main bearing, can’t that can’t be broken down and will have to be moved as wide-loads. Once re-assembled and digging, Rosie can chew away enough dirt to fill an average-size house every hour. And she is expected to start doing that by mid-summer.

Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan hosted a tour of the Rosie assembly site and he says the tunneling machine, and much of the rest of whole sewer reconstruction, is northeast-Ohio-made.

"The cylinder the cutter head itself is attached to ... manufactured in Youngstown. Most of bearings on the cutter head are from Timken ... Canton.  And the concrete segments that make up the actual sewer pipe were made in Macedonia. And the segment gaskets are being manufactured in Mogador."

Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan Inspecting Tunnel Boring Machine
Credit Tim Rudell / WKSU

Horrigan also says about 30 percent of the workers on the sewer project are Akron area residents now, and he hopes to get that up to 35 percent.