When it rains near Shylo Bisnett’s Albany Park apartment, she often stays awake for hours watching the rain gauge and worried about her home flooding.
Responding to residents’ concerns after the 2008 and 2013 floods that affected hundreds of households, the city drafted a plan for a diversion tunnel that will move water from Albany Park and reduce the risk for catastrophic flooding that has displaced so many residents.
On Saturday, officials from the Chicago Department of Transportation, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago and 39th Ward Ald. Margaret Laurino announced that “blasting operations” were complete.
Blasting operations for the construction of the intake shaft of the Albany Park Stormwater Diversion Tunnel Project are now complete; the blasting at the outflow shaft in River Park was finished in March. The two 150-foot deep shafts will be connected by a mile-long tunnel bored under Foster Avenue that moves excess storm water to the North Shore Channel, which has a greater capacity to hold the overflow than the North Branch of the Chicago River.
A tunnel boring machine, installed at the outflow shaft earlier this year, has excavated just over half the tunnel, which is expected to be finished later this year. Work is underway to connect the intake shaft to the river bank at Foster, just north of Springfield Avenue.
“With this, we won’t have to rely on the city to sandbag or monitor weather pattern changes,” said Bisnett, who has lived in the area for 15 years. “This is really a long-term, permanent solution that will stabilize and increase property values because we won’t be nervous all of the time.”
So far, the project is on budget and scheduled to meet its May 2018 deadline, officials said. It will be able to hold 2,300 cubic feet of water per second, Rebekah Scheinfeld, CDOT Commissioner said. That’s half the volume of water that comes through the North Branch of the Chicago River.
“This means that the residents of Albany Park aren’t going to have sleepless nights,” Laurino said. “It was very disturbing to know that we couldn’t fight mother nature under the circumstances, but we think that we came up with a plan now that is going to address this.”