INSIDE LOOK: Deep Rock Tunnel construction complete

Local News

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – The city’s tunnel boring machine is sitting ready to be disassembled more than 100 feet below Foster Park. WANE 15 got a look at the big drill after it completed its task clearing a nearly five-mile-long tunnel below downtown Fort Wayne.

According to the City Utilities Manager of Engineering, the Foster Park area is the most problematic part of the city for combined sewage overflow. The spot has now been connected to the Deep Rock Tunnel which will carry the overflow to the water filtration plant on the opposite side of downtown.

The drill, commonly known as MamaJo was assembled and began the journey near Glasgow and Dwenger Avenues and wound underground. While most people didn’t see the work happening below the surface, many noticed the construction of drop shafts around downtown.

“When connected in 2023, the tunnel will benefit the entire community by protecting our rivers from combined sewer overflows,” said Matthew Wirtz, Deputy Director of City Utilities. “The tunnel will reduce the amount of combined sewer overflow going into our rivers by 94%, nearly 900 billion gallons on average each year. When connected by the end of 2023, the tunnel will protect about 45,000 residents and 15,000 properties from basement back-ups and street flooding,”

Currently, when it rains, combined sewage overflows into our rivers an average of 72 times per year, City Utilities said. When the tunnel is completed and connected by the end of 2023, most of the overflow will go to our Water Pollution Control Plant for treatment and keep nearly one billion gallons of combined sewage out of our rivers.

The Deep Rock Tunnel is the largest construction and public investment project in the city’s history.  The $188 million investment is designed with a life expectancy of more than 100 years, City Utilities said. World renowned construction contractors S.A. Healy/Lane Construction, and Salini Impregilo, partnered to construct the tunnel. The companies have built deep-rock tunnels in more than 50 countries.

Quick Facts

  • 24,519 feet (nearly five miles) of tunnel stretching from Glasgow Avenue to Foster Park
  • 14 million tons (28 billion pounds) of material have been mined 
  • When operational, the tunnel will reduce combined sewer overflows by 94%
  • The best mining day was Jan. 19, 2021, with 115 feet constructed
  • The tunnel is 220 feet below the earth’s surface 
  • The interior tunnel diameter is 16 feet
  • The tunnel is made up of 4,878 rings; each is made up of six concrete segments
  • 850 million gallons of combined sewage can travel through the tunnel each day 
  • MamaJo’s name was created with the first two letters from Fort Wayne’s three rivers: Ma from the St. Mary’s, Ma from the Maumee, and Jo from the St. Joseph 

Projects to complete by 2023

  • Six Adits – Connections from the bottom of shaft to tunnel 
  • Drop Shaft (DS) #5 (Thieme Drive) under construction completion in September 2021
  • Deep Dewatering Pump Station – Near Water Pollution Control Plant. Will lift flow from tunnel and send it to storage ponds or treatment plant. Construction begins summer of 2021. 
  • Consolidation Sewer – Near-surface sewers constructed to collect sewage from several existing sewers to divert it from the rivers and convey it to the drop shaft and on to the tunnel.
    • Consolidation sewers under construction at DS9 – Headwater Park West, DS12 – East Central Park
    • Consolidation sewers in design at DS3 – Brown Street, DS6 – Camp Allen, DS7 – Guldlin Park
  • Restoration work throughout

To find out more about the Deep Rock Tunnel project, click here.

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