Final phase of 18-year sewer project underway

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) - The last part of a major project to revamp the city’s sewer system is still a few years away from breaking ground, but it’s already provided more than 1200 jobs in our area.  It’s the largest single utilities investment in Fort Wayne’s history.

A $240 million dollar project has been in the works for nearly 20 years. In 1995, the Environmental Protection Agency gave the city 18 years to reduce the amount of sewer overflows by 91 percent. Since that mandate, the city has implemented a multi-step project to fix the problem. Plans are moving forward to complete the final step of the project: a tunnel reaching 5 miles into the core of the city. The tunnel will cost an estimated $150 million, and be paid for by sewer rates. The project will use the same technology that built the Channel Tunnel Rail – known as the “Chunnel” between London and Paris. Construction won’t start until 2017, but the city is planning ahead to make sure things go as smooth as possible.

“Over the next two plus years, we’ll be designing this tunnel, taking a lot of public input on routes and things we should be looking for and taking into consideration. That’s why we’re taking such a long amount of time on the design to make sure we do get the appropriate feedback from the community,” said Justin Brugger, the Senior Program Manager for Engineering and Long-Term Control Plan Administration for the City of Fort Wayne.

The tentative layout has the tunnel starting near the Maumee River and ending near the Foster Park Golf Course. It will take about four years to complete after it breaks ground. City officials say they are taking the next few years to ensure the project runs smoothly.

“Over the next two plus years, we’ll be designing this tunnel, taking a lot of public input on routes and things we should be looking for and taking into consideration. That’s why we’re taking such a long amount of time on the design to make sure we do get the appropriate feedback from the community,” said Brugger.

Fort Wayne is the second city in the state to undertake such an endeavor, and has utilized the Indianapolis model in many areas of the project.

“Fort Wayne is viewed as a leader, statewide and nationally, addressing combined sewer overflow problems. Indianapolis started their tunnel project a few years ago, and Fort Wayne will be the second city in the state to do this. People look at cities like Fort Wayne, Indianapolis, and Columbus as leaders as they develop their own programs to develop this,” said Brugger.

City officials say the project is providing more than just critical infrastructure to the community.

“The exciting thing is that this is an economic development opportunity, it’s not just a tunnel. We have an opportunity to lure talent, to develop the next generation and educate them. We’re already bringing in new talent. Just in the past few years alone, we’ve had several engineering firms open up offices in Fort Wayne,” said Brugger.

Construction on the tunnel will take about four years to complete.

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