MaMaJo calls it a day after nearly 3 years of drilling

Local News

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – For the past three years MamaJo, the Tunnel Boring Machine, has been drilling through nearly five miles of bedrock. On Wednesday, crews called it a day.

Mayor Tom Henry joined dozens of neighborhood leaders, tunnel and utility workers, and City Council members to celebrate the deep rock tunnel milestone.

“I’m encouraged and impressed by the work that’s being done to protect neighborhoods and preserve our rivers through the MamaJo investment,” Henry said. “Today’s deep rock tunnel accomplishment sends a strong message that Fort Wayne is committed to reducing combined sewer overflows. It’s also vital that we continue to be proactive and innovative in order to be a high-performing city that’s meeting the needs of residents, neighborhoods and businesses now and in the future.”

Digging through bedrock to create a 16-foot diameter pipe that would store and transport sewage during heavy rain events. City Utilities said MamaJo often worked three straight shifts over multiple days during her journey 220 feet below the Earth’s surface.

Her journey began near Glasgow and Dwenger Avenue and wound underground, connecting 14 neighborhoods on both sides of the river to Foster Park.

Map courtesy of City Utilities

“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,”

A crew celebrates in the city of Fort Wayne’s Deep Rock Tunnel, as the boring machine known as MaMaJo reached the halfway point of its 5-mile journey through the bedrock. (City of Fort Wayne)

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.

MaMaJo cutterhead 2_1549300417961.jpg.jpg

“We appreciate the support of Mayor Henry, the City Council, and the many residents and neighborhoods who have supported this important project. Indeed, protecting and strengthening our neighborhoods is essential. But, still, we can also see that our investments are supporting a river renaissance and economic growth in the community,” said Kumar Menon, Director of City Utilities. “River popularity is evident, with hundreds of kayakers, canoers, and other boat users on our waterways each day. Residents are embracing our rivers, as is evident with the usage at Promenade Park.” 

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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