Winding through tunnels under Lake Erie

8:38 AM, May 1, 2013   |    comments
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It's a massive $198 million undertaking that's happening beneath your feet -- and under a sliver of Lake Erie.

We want to take you on what can only be described as the most unique commute in all of Ohio. Instead of driving up I-77 to get to the office, these workers make their way into "the shaft" by taking a ride down a knee-knocking man-made canyon just off I-90 in Bratenahl.

It goes 200 feet down under Lake Erie.

It's deep, dark, loud and always about 55 degrees.

Like clockwork, a train -- Cleveland's only real subway -- awaits the descendants of "the shaft" for a 15 minute, 15 mph train ride from the site in Bratenahl to the location of Cleveland's big dig.

What they're doing down here is building an 18,000-foot long tunnel from Bratenahl under the highway, and yes, under the lake, to near the Euclid line.

The underground area is big enough to hold New York City trains

In the end, this project will prevent about a billion gallons in sewer oveflow from entering Lake Erie every year. 

According to one worker, we have more tunnels in Cleveland per capita than most other cities.

We finally arrive at the site of the drill known as the TBM -- the tunnel boring machine. It's the size of three train cars and requires 12 people to run it.

And when it starts up, it chews up. Millions of pounds of shale have been drilled, rolled and raised up top.

Employing trains and elevators and dozens of workers deep underground is the biggest project ever taken on by the NEO Regional Sewer district. Nearly $200 million spent on waste.  A worksite no human will set foot in for generations after the valves open down here next year.


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