FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — Fort Wayne has had its fair share of flooding issues over the years, but there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel: a five mile long underground tunnel that is almost complete.

City utilities is currently in the midst of an 18 year plan to fix the flooding problem by controlling where storm water drains to. The idea is to eliminate flooding on roads, in residential areas, and near businesses.

Thursday, WANE 15 got a look at a series of completed projects they’ve done throughout the years to fix draining in many areas of the city. Each project shared the same goal of limiting flooding in neighborhoods, reducing basement backups, and sometimes re-directing the flow of water.

Deputy Director for Engineering, Matthew Wirtz, believes it’s all about making improvements and reducing not only the common floods, but the massive backups as well.

“It’s about reducing combined sewer overflows or sewage into the rivers, but it’s also about us making improvements to our sewer and storm water systems to reduce common street flooding as well as even more severe like basement back ups from sewage systems,” Wirtz said.

For example, the Beckett’s Run neighborhood in the northern part of town needed to have water relocated away from residential areas and the streets. The project in that neighborhood now allows water to flow into the green spaces and open land away from buildings and roads.

More to the south, the big project in the Aboite Meadows neighborhood was an improvement of the storm sewer systems so water can drain more efficiently. So far, the projects and new improvements seem to be working well and doing their jobs even during storms like what we saw earlier this month.

Wirtz told WANE 15 that areas in northern Fort Wayne where they’ve already completed bigger projects resulted in almost no calls regarding issues, even when the area saw more than eight inches of water in a short amount of time in early July.

Sewer and Storm Water Engineering Manager Anne Marie Smrchek likes the outcomes she is seeing from the completed projects.

“They just continue to improve. I think all of our projects are trying to look at how can we help reduce backups and how to reduce flooding,” Smrchek said.

In late June last year, MaMa Jo finished digging the Deep Rock Tunnel under Fort Wayne. Now that it’s fully formed, all that is left are the smaller tunnels connecting the main tunnel to storm drains.

The Deep Rock Tunnel will also contribute to less flooding in neighborhoods once it’s operational.

The tunnel should also improve the water quality of the St. Joseph and Maumee Rivers by not allowing storm sewage to flow into them, although it won’t change the color of the water. Other long-term efforts will hopefully contribute to that down the line.

An image of work being done on a drop shaft in the Deep Rock Tunnel provided by Fort Wayne City Utilities on Thursday, 7/21/22.

Although you won’t physically be able to see the tunnel, you will be able to see its effects. Manager of Engineering and Construction of the tunnel, Michael Kiester, says the tunnel will be activated and fully operational within the next two years.

“It will absolutely make a big difference. As the flows transport along the tunnel, the neighborhoods will see some impact on that.” he said, “When the river levels come up and storms start backing up into the neighborhoods we’ll still be able to take our system and dump it down into the tunnel and it won’t be influenced nearly as much by the high river levels.”

City Utilities says that it is helpful if you call 3-1-1 if you see flooding in your neighborhood. It gives them a chance to come inspect whether the problem is a storm drain that needs minor work on it, or if they need to start on another big project.