1st 700 feet of Port Tunnel done

Crews aim for 20 feet of tunnel per day

Published On: Feb 13 2012 06:26:54 PM EST   Updated On: Feb 14 2012 11:25:52 AM EST
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MIAMI -

For the first time since a giant machine began boring Miami's Port Tunnel last November, Local 10 cameras were invited in and underground to see the progress. 

As of Monday, 131 concrete rings were in place, composing the first 700 feet of tunnel. 

PHOTOS: Port Tunnel tour

The moving labyrinth of walkways and machinery is currently 45 feet below the MacArthur Causeway on a 5 percent grade, headed down to an eventual 120 feet. 

The giant cutting wheel on the front of the machine is about to encounter a layer of earth crews call "Strata 5," which they say is the hardest limestone they've encountered yet. 

"Today, we're going under maintenance to make sure the cutter blades, the face shield and everything is in place to properly deal with that," said Christopher Hodgkins, vice president of the Miami Access Tunnel consortium. 

The machine runs on electricity and hydraulics.  

The 52,000 tons of hydraulic pressure that moves the boring machine forward also pushes back onto each concrete ring as its set into place.

"We're not just building frame," said Hodgkins. "We're putting in conduit, fire flow, pressurized water, pressurized air, and all of this is taking place as we're building the tunnel.  We're trying to complete as much of the tunnel as we can as we go through the process."

Crews aim to complete 20 feet of tunnel a day.