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Thursday, December 10, 2009

What Portland's Sky Looks Like from 120 Feet Underground

Posted by Sarah Mirk on Thu, Dec 10, 2009 at 4:32 PM

DSCN1087.JPG

This afternoon I found myself standing on a narrow metal platform above a 120 foot pit outside the Portland Opera House. Standing next to me was the nonchalant Chris Gomez, a man who has spent seven hours a day, five days a week for the past two years tunneling beneath Portland to build the largest sewer project in our city's history, the East Side Pipe. A shaky metal elevator rose up to the surface, an air horn blasting three times to warn, "Incoming!" Gomez opened the elevator doors with his hands and we stepped inside. The floor was muddy. The gears were loud. "Don't get scared on me," said Gomez. Too late.

The East Side Pipe project completed digging four miles of its eventual 5.6 miles stretch last week. Rosie, the tunnel boring machine that weighs as much as 26 TriMet buses, emerged from the surface all the way down at Swan Island, having last seen sunlight at outside OMSI two years ago.

This photo is bad because I was terrified of dropping my camera.
  • This photo is bad because I was terrified of dropping my camera.

Now that theyve finished tunnelling north, theyll float the giant tunnel machine back upriver, lower it into the pit and head south. The pink spray paint on the sealed mouth of south end of the tunnel reads, SOUTH STOP.
  • Now that they've finished tunnelling north, they'll float the giant tunnel machine back upriver, lower it into the pit and head south. The pink spray paint on the sealed mouth of south end of the tunnel reads, "SOUTH STOP".

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