Ground broken for stormwater diversion tunnel

A groundbreaking ceremony for the Albany Park storm water diversion tunnel was held on May 22. The purpose of the tunnel is to reduce or eliminate flooding in the area.

The 18-foot tunnel 150 feet below ground level will divert 2,300 cubic feet of water per second about 1.4 miles from the North Branch of the Chicago River to the North Shore Channel. It will have an intake shaft at a bend in the river in Field Park just east of Pulaski Road, and go into operation before the water level reaches flood stage.

The $70 million project will produce an estimated 250 construction jobs. Completion is scheduled for the spring of 2018.

Work on the project will be visible at two ground-level locations, at the inlet shaft off Foster Avenue east of Pulaski and at the outlet shaft in River Park on the east side of the North Shore Channel. This month and next, staging for construction will take place over the next month, with park closing and relocation of the walking path.

Excavation and construction of the concrete inlet and outlet shafts from July through the end of the year, and community meetings will be held before any blasting is done. The work in 2017 will include below-ground tunnel boring.

The ceremony was attended by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Alderman Margaret Laurino (39th), U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, U.S. Representative Mike Quigley, Metropolitan Water Reclamation District Board of Commissioners President Mariyana Spyropoulous and officials of the Chicago Department of Transportation.

"No resident of the city of Chicago should have to live in fear of the type of devastating floods that Albany Park residents have lived through twice in recent years," Emanuel said. "A project of this magnitude takes teamwork, and we are very pleased to work with our partners at the federal, state and local level to get this work under way and deliver the 21st Century infrastructure that the residents of this neighborhood need and deserve."

"This drainage tunnel will eliminate the danger of floods that have plagued our Northwest Side neighborhood for more than a century," Laurino said. "In the meantime, we’ve coordinated protective safety measures with CDOT and the Chicago Office of Emergency Management and Communications against potential flooding. We’ve also pledged to keep residents updated on the tunnel project completion."