New $70 Million Tunnel Keeping Water Out of Northwest Side Streets, Homes

The new Albany Park Stormwater Diversion Tunnel diverts water 150 feet below the surface. (Courtesy Chicago Department of Transportation) The new Albany Park Stormwater Diversion Tunnel diverts water 150 feet below the surface. (Courtesy Chicago Department of Transportation)

Nearly 6 inches of rain has fallen in and around Chicago since last weekend, which in years past might have caused significant flooding in the North Park and Albany Park neighborhoods.

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But that hasn’t happened, city officials said this week, and it’s thanks to a new $70 million stormwater tunnel that has been operating since last summer.

Plans for the Albany Park Stormwater Diversion Tunnel came about after massive flooding hit the area in 2013, which the city said affected hundreds of homes.

Construction on the tunnel began in 2016. Since going online last July, the tunnel has been activated eight times to divert water to keep the North Branch of the Chicago River within its banks, according to the Chicago Department of Transportation, which built the tunnel.

The system captures river water as it rises and diverts it 150 feet below the surface into a nearly 6,000-foot-long tunnel that runs below Foster Avenue. Water is collected at an inlet near Foster and Springfield avenues and released near River Park and Swedish Covenant Hospital at the North Shore Channel.

Construction on the Albany Park Stormwater Diversion Tunnel began in 2016 and was finished last year. Construction on the Albany Park Stormwater Diversion Tunnel began in 2016 and was finished last year.

According to CDOT, the tunnel was designed to handle a maximum rate of 2,300 cubic feet of water per second, or 820,000 gallons per minute. The system is currently operating at about 30% of its capacity, or about 250,000 gallons per minute.

CDOT spokesperson Susan Hofer said there has been no flooding in the neighborhoods adjacent to the river.

Hofer also said the tunnel has had no failures during the recent heavy rain and is operating as intended, though WTTW News cameras captured images Wednesday of some flooding along Foster Avenue near River Park. Hofer said the standing water did not result from anything to do with the tunnel but was rather caused by catch basins that filled with debris and drained slowly. 

Despite the success of the tunnel, city officials this week have advised residents citywide to conserve water during heavy rain or when rain is in the forecast. Water-saving actions include delaying showers or reducing the length of showers, flushing less frequently and waiting to run the dishwasher.

Contact Alex Ruppenthal: @arupp aruppenthal@wttw.com | (773) 509-5623


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