On Sunday, May 22, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD) of Greater Chicago and the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) broke ground on a joint project to relieve the threat of catastrophic flooding in the Albany Park neighborhood. The stormwater diversion tunnel will have capacity to divert 65 m3/s (2300 ft3/s) to prevent the types of floods that devastated this neighborhood twice in recent years.
The project will take 2 years to construct a tunnel 45 m (150 ft) below ground level to divert stormwater about 2.25 km (1.4 mi) from the North Branch of the Chicago River to the North Shore Channel. The approximately $70 million project will produce an estimated 250 construction jobs.
The 5.5-m (18-ft) diameter tunnel will have an intake shaft at a bend in the river in Eugene Field Park. It will kick into operation before the water level reaches flood stage, diverting flow to bypass Albany Park and emptying at an outlet shaft at River Park into the North Shore Channel.
Since 2008, Albany Park has experienced two major floods that have affected hundreds of homes in the northwest side community along the North Branch of the Chicago River. After the last round of serious flooding in April 2013, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel pledged the city would address the problem in a comprehensive way and directed CDOT to move forward with design and engineering of a drainage tunnel.
Leaders attend event
Mayor Emanuel, Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), 39th Ward Alderman Margaret Laurino, Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD) Board of Commissioners President Mariyana Spyropoulos, and other leaders attended the groundbreaking.
“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.”
“Working collaboratively to solve neighborhood problems like this one in Albany Park is what government partnerships are all about,” Spyropoulos said.
Project brings more than just stormwater relief
The project also will greatly improve the parks at the ends of the tunnel. River Park, at the east end of the project, will receive a new regulation size baseball field and diamond, complete with backstop fence, batter cage, and a soccer field. There also will be landscaping and trees planted at River Park. In Eugene Field Park, at the western end of the tunnel, new landscaping, trees, a walkway, benches, and a water fountain will be installed.