CENTRAL PARK — Manhattanites will likely notice nothing out of the ordinary when they turn on their taps on Wednesday. But hundreds of feet below the streets, a modern miracle of engineering is set to switch on the latest section of City Water Tunnel Number 3, signaling an end of decades of work to complete the crucial new water artery.
“There is no other infrastructure project that means more to protecting New York City's future than the third water tunnel,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said during remarks held in a massive underground concrete bunker below Central Park that houses the flow control for the new water tunnel.
Begun in 1970, Water Tunnel Number 3 was built as a safe guard against failures in the two other aging water conduits, the newest of which was completed in 1936. Running from Hillside Reservoir in Yonkers, Tunnel 3 runs through the Bronx and into Manhattan, where an initial stage was turned on in 1998.
The latest section will provide the 350 million gallons of water used in Manhattan daily, through the 8.5 miles of new pipes, some of which measures 24 feet in diameter. Once the remaining portions of Tunnel 3 are completed in Queens and Brooklyn by 2021, the city plans on shutting down Tunnel 1, which has been in continuous operation since 1916, for inspection and repair.
“Until today, if there was ever a major failure of Water Tunnel Number 1, the potential for public health and safety consequences for Manhattan would have been really grim,” Bloomberg said.
According to the city, Tunnel 3 is part of a $10 billion investment in water infrastructure made by the Bloomberg administration over the past 12 years. This includes a new $3.2 billion filtration plant in the Bronx opened last year.
Tom Feighery, 47, a member of Local 141 was on hand for the mayor’s announcement Wednesday. He said worked as a sandhog on “the raw part” of Tunnel 3’s construction. As the son of a sandhog, Feighery said he was proud to see the latest tunnel section come online.
“Like everybody else, we’ll turn our tap on and if it’s running, you know it works,” Feighery said with a laugh.