With rain falling steady, Rosie’s makers pulled back the white tarps covering the two sections of her body exposed to the elements. Her back three sections were tucked somewhere out of sight inside a steel building at the Robbins Co., a Solon manufacturer of massive tunnel bores.
Before a row of television cameras and cellphone videographers, Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan spoke his four “favorite words” into a microphone — “on time, on budget.” Then, he opened his golf umbrella and turned to face the $12 million machine he and the city now own.
A few wet moments passed and Rosie’s 30-foot-6-inch-tall, white, circular face began its rock-crushing spin. Black wheels in the shape of a blue asterisk churned quietly, powered by an electric motor and hydraulic pumps that generate enough thrust to lift 16 space shuttles off the ground.
On her side were the logos of the Ohio and national parts producers that made her, from Youngstown to Macedonia and Mogadore. Beside them flexed a 12-foot-tall “Rosie the Riveter” poster — an homage to Rose May Jacob, who died in 2014 at the age of 88, having lived an industrious life that included riveting wings on C-47 warplanes in Akron during World War II.
Rosie, at 2.2 million pounds, stretches the length of a football field. She stands as tall as five LeBron Jameses stacked atop one another. And she’s ready for service.
In the next week, the tunnel-boring machine will be tested then unbolted and loaded onto oversized tractor-trailers. The main bearing behind the cutter head (which unbolts into four pieces) will be shipped in a welded, 130-ton section from Solon to Akron along State Route 8 in about a month.
City spokeswoman Ellen Lander-Nischt said the move will likely happen at night over one day and cause as little traffic disruption as possible.
“It won’t be a total closure of the route, just a slow moving, extra wide load and some intermittent closures around bridges [and] overpasses,” she said.
For now, Akron awaits the largest piece of infrastructure equipment its people have ever purchased, and maybe ever will. The $12 million tunnel borer, about 3 feet too big to be built indoors at the Robbins Co., is dwarfed only by a handful now or soon to be cutting underground roads and water tunnels in places such as Washington, D.C., and Seattle.
After being bolted together on rails, the last welding will take place at the starting line between downtown Akron and the Little Cuyahoga River. There, Rosie will make her maiden cut in August or September, moving 6 inches per minute and turning 27,300 cubic feet of earth into muck each hour. She’ll follow the Ohio & Erie Canal south, heading uphill with the topography along a 6,240-foot path from the Little Cuyahoga River to East Exchange Street, just beyond Canal Park, home of the RubberDucks.
A crew of 30 will staff Rosie. Another seven will follow behind, erecting a conveyor to remove the muck. Electric lines trailing behind will carry 13,200 volts to Rosie’s heart. Hoses will bring fresh air to the workers, about 10 of whom live in Akron.
As the tunnel lurches forward, arched concrete sections will slide into place to form the finished product: the Ohio Canal Interceptor Tunnel. By December 2018, the cavern will be connected to existing and updated sewers that collect rain from the streets overhead. Public Service Director John Moore expects the $184.1 million tunnel to capture 26 million gallons of stormwater during heavy rainfall, then release it when the city’s treatment facility in the Cuyahoga Valley catches up.
Rosie’s last push will be through a wall in a 48-foot-wide hole dug 173 feet below Exchange Street. There, she’ll be disassembled and hoisted out of the ground, then loaded and returned to Robbins Co. in Solon as stipulated in the purchase agreement.
“The machine will be used up. We’ll bring it back and they’ll refurbish it then sell it to someone else,” Moore said. “We don’t have much [additional use] for a 27-foot tunnel machine. There’s no reason for us to keep it.”
Doug Livingston can be reached at 330-996-3792 or email@example.com. Follow on Twitter or Facebook.