Tunnel reaches second phase
by SEAN KEENEHAN
The city Department of Transportation has started work on the second phase of the Albany Park stormwater diversion tunnel project in order to alleviate flooding in the area.
Controlled blasting began on March 21 at the flood intake site, which is located at Springfield Avenue, just north of West Foster Avenue. As part of the project, one eastbound and one westbound lane of traffic has been closed on Foster between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. in order for crews to connect water service to a new park that will be constructed once the blasting is complete.
Controlled blasting will occur at the site between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. approximately every other day and a horn warning system will be incorporated adjacent to the shaft that will sound horn signals 10 minutes prior to each blasting event. The blasting events last for no more than a minute, according to the department.
In addition, the department has installed warning signs along Foster, and contractors and city personnel will be stationed at perimeter points around the site to provide awareness of the blasting to the public.
Workers will stop traffic momentarily during blasting, but emergency vehicles will not have to stop and will be allowed to pass through the area, as a detonation can be stopped at any point during the blasting process, the department said.
The project will also add improvements to Field Park at the western end of the tunnel, including landscaping, new trees, a new walkway, benches and a water fountain, and improvements to River Park at the eastern end of the project, including landscaping, new trees, a new soccer field and a new regulation-sized baseball field and diamond with a backstop fence and batting cage.
The drainage tunnel will start in Field Park and extend for approximately one mile under Foster to the North Shore Channel. The tunnel will divert water during times of heavy rains, and will not affect the river’s water level in normal times. The cost is between $45 and $55 million, according to Alderman Deb Mell (33rd). The project is expected to be completed by May 2018.
According to the city, Albany Park has experienced two major floods that have affected hundreds of homes on the Northwest Side. After the last round of serious flooding in April of 2013, Mayor Rahm Emanuel pledged to work with the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District to address the problem and he directed the city department to move forward with design and engineering of a drainage tunnel in 2015.