King County is getting ready to use a shaft excavation machine that will be the first of its kind in North America.

James W. Fowler Co., the general contactor, is using it to build a 30-foot diameter, 145-foot deep launching portal for a tunnel boring machine. It’s all part of a $38 million project to replace a 77-year old wooden sewer line beneath the Lake Washington Ship Canal.

The vertical shaft machine was developed by Herrenknecht, a tunneling technology company based in Germany.