Sandhogs

While stories of public transportation accidents, like ones recently in Washington D.C. and Boston garner a lot of attention, we rarely give the same respect to construction workers who labor in dangerous conditions to provide the infrastructure we take for granted.  The business of building infrastructure – transportation related or not – is frequently hazardous, whether it is tunneling under ground, blasting through mountains, laying track next to operating trains or paving highways while cars drive by.

The Boston Globe recently ran a two-part series (part 1, part 2) on events in a tunnel at Deer Island in 1999.  A team of divers was sent deep underground into a 9-mile tunnel to finish off part of a project to help restore Boston Harbor.  The pipe was to divert sewage so that the Harbor would once again sparkle with hues of blue and green.  The divers were to remove safety plugs from the ends of various pipes, in a place without human contact, air or light.  Two of the divers eventually perished in that tunnel, all in the name of improved infrastructure for a city.

Many workers risk their lives every day in order to push this and many other countries forward.  A sterling example are the Sandhog 2sandhogs in New York, who are working on a 50-year project to build a third water tunnel to Manhattan.  Like the divers in the Globe story, the sandhogs go beneath ground every day to bore through the hard Manhattan bedrock in order to bring clean water to New York.  As the 21st century goes forward and we build new transportation, hundreds of thousands of people will in some way contribute to the construction of new infrastructure, whether it is roads, wires, bridges, railroads or tunnels.  Every now and then, take time to step back and marvel at creativity and discipline in human labor that creates such massive projects that serve us every day.

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