ALBANY PARK — Recent rains and melting snow brought the Chicago River close to flood stage again, just the sort of emergency the city hopes the Albany Park Stormwater Diversion Tunnel will eventually prevent.
On Wednesday, the City Council approved $1.7 million in funds to continue moving the tunnel project forward, matching an identical amount put up by the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, according to Ald. Margaret Laurino (39th).
The combined $3.4 million will be used to pay for the tunnel's design, Laurino said.
In an email to DNAinfo Chicago, Vasile Jurca, a civil engineer with the Chicago Department of Transportation, said the conceptual phase of the project had been completed. Full design services are scheduled to start by the end of March and wrap up in the fall. Construction should begin shortly thereafter, with a goal of having the tunnel operational by mid-2016.
“From the time I was a congressman to my time as mayor, I have seen the Albany Park community deal with great uncertainty as a result of extreme storms,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a statement. “The construction of this tunnel will dramatically reduce flooding in this community and ensure that our residents and businesses don’t need to worry about dealing with storm damage and its consequences."
The tunnel was announced in April 2013 after devastating flooding in the neighborhood that saw the Chicago River overflow its banks, cresting at a record high 8.85 feet. The river has reached its 7-foot flood stage three times since 2008.
The city and the MWRD are partnering on the diversion tunnel, which will be 18 feet in diameter and 100 feet below ground, running under Foster Avenue.
During overflow conditions, stormwater will be intercepted at Eugene Field Park and diverted into the tunnel. After traveling the length of the mile-long pipe, the water will then discharge into the North Shore Channel at River Park.
The total project is expected to cost approximately $50 million.