Chicago Builds Underground Tunnel to Fight Flooding in Albany Park

In the Albany Park neighborhood on Chicago’s Northwest Side, the familiar saying is true: When it rains, it pours. But after heavy storms, the Chicago River’s North Branch, which cuts through the area, floods hundreds of homes.

Flooding occurs at this part of the river when waters exceed 7 feet. This last occurred in 2013 and 2008, according to the National Weather Service.

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Sandbags have been the primary defense agains the river, but the Chicago Department of Transportation is now constructing a permanent flood-fighting weapon: a massive underground tunnel to divert stormwater from the North Branch to the North Shore Channel, a man-made canal with more capacity.

A channel at the river’s North Branch, just west of Gompers Park, will divert excess stormwater to an inlet shaft that drops 150 feet below ground into a mile-long tunnel under Foster Avenue. There, the stormwater will naturally flow east towards River Park, where it will be released into the North Shore Channel.

The project is scheduled to be finished in spring 2018 and costs $70 million, paid for by funding from the federal, state and city governments, as well as the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District.

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