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Albany Park

Heavy Rains Flowing Into New $70 Million Albany Park Tunnel — Not People’s Basements, City Officials Say

"Instead of water causing street flooding or going into people’s homes, it's going into the tunnel,' said Kari K. Steele, president of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District.

Retiring Ald. Margaret Laurino (39th) (at the microphone), appears with city and county officials as well as Ald.-elect Samantha Nugent.
Alex V. Hernandez/Block Club Chicago
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ALBANY PARK — For the eighth time since its creation, the Albany Park Tunnel has helped alleviate flooding on the Northwest Side.

Even with this week’s rain, “We’ve had no failures; it’s doing its intended purpose,” said Tom Carney, first deputy commissioner of the Chicago Department of Transportation.

The $70 million Albany Park Tunnel went into operation last summer. It is designed to handle a maximum of 820,000 gallons per minute, and is now operating at about 30 percent of capacity, he said.

At a press conference Wednesday afternoon next to the tunnel intake, retiring Ald. Margaret Laurino (39th) said Mayor Rahm Emanuel had called her at 7 a.m. “to ask if the tunnel was working properly.”

It was. While some debris collected on metal grates where water flows into the system, the tunnel was still diverting overflow on Wednesday afternoon.

“The fact you have cars going down Foster Avenue right now, to me, shows that the tunnel is functioning great,” said Kari K. Steele, president of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago. “Instead of water causing street flooding or going into people’s homes, it’s going into the tunnel.”

The National Weather Service recorded between 1.5 and 2 inches of rainfall in the Chicago area over the past 24 hours.

Credit: National Weather Service

Federal, state and local funds paid for the $70 million project, which was put in motion after catastrophic floods hit Albany Park in 2013, the second time in five years that neighborhood streets flooded.

The 2013 rainstorm hit Chicago and from April 17 to April 18, the city recorded 5 to 10 inches across the metro area.

With rainfall on the horizon for later Wednesday and into Thursday, Steele urged people to be mindful of whether that load of laundry or long shower could be put off until after the rain stops.

Using less water at home “opens up space in your local sewer line that is taking in rainwater that will eventually get to us,” Steele said.

Credit: City of Chicago
The stormwater diversion tunnel runs 150 feet below Foster Avenue.

The 5,833-foot tunnel sits about 150 feet below Foster Avenue. Flood water is collected at an inlet along the South Bank of the Chicago River near the intersection of Springfield and Foster avenues.

At 18 feet in diameter, the tunnel functions as an underground river and diverts floodwaters into an outlet shaft in River Park.

Construction on the Albany Park Tunnel began during the spring of 2016 and it was first activated in summer 2018.

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