Ground was ceremonially broken Thursday on the largest construction and public investment project in the city's history: a five-mile tunnel 200 feet below ground that will help keep raw sewage out of the rivers.
Mayor Tom Henry, City Council members, neighborhood leaders, contractors and City Utilities staff were expected to mark the start of work on the $188 million Three Rivers Protection and Overflow Reduction Tunnel (3RPORT), which is also expected to prevent basement back-ups and street flooding. In a statement, Henry said the project "will have significant environmental and economic benefits for generations to come . . . A successful future for our community and region depends on safe, effective and efficient wastewater treatment facilities and best practices.”
City Utilities Kumar Menon noted the project will also boost one of the city's other major initiatives. "This will change who we are, and how we celebrate our rivers. This will be important for generations to come," he said.
Contractors S.A. Healy and Salini Impregilo are teaming on the project, which is expected to have a life e expectancy of 100 years.
“We know that in four to six years we will see a 90 percent reduction in the amount of combined sewer overflow going into our rivers — a reduction of more than 850 billion gallons on average each year," Matthew Wirtz, deputy director of City Utilities, stated. " This will benefit the entire community and our waterways as well as those downstream all the way to Lake Erie. We also know that in the next four to six years we will see a reduction in neighborhood street flooding and basement back-ups. The tunnel will directly help 30 neighborhoods, 15,000 properties and around 45,000 residents.”
The groundbreaking was held near the city's sewage treatment plant on Dwenger Avenue adjacent to the planned working shaft and where the construction building will be. When construction is completed, a pump station associated with the tunnel operation will be located on this site. The building will be completed this fall and the working shaft will be completed next spring. In the summer of 2018 pieces of the tunnel boring machine (TBM) will be delivered and after assembly will be put in the ground. The project will also include nine drop shafts in several neighborhoods and will collect materials from combined storm and sanitary sewers and take it to the plant for treatment.
The tunnel will stretch from Dwenger and Glasgow avenues to Foster Park will a daily capacity of 800 million gallons and is expected to be complete by fall 2021. The project is expected to create about 4,000 construction jobs, many of which will be filled locally.
Despite the many benefits to the community, however, Henry quipped the project may not help him politically.
"You won't be able to see it," he said.
For more information, visit fortwaynetunnel.org.