CORRECTED: And the name of Fort Wayne’s Deep Rock Tunnel borer is …

The name of the machine that will bore a 5-foot long sewage tunnel through Fort Wayne has been named Mama Jo, an acronym for the city's three rivers. (Image courtesy of City Utilities)
Continuous streams of groundwater emerge from the limestone walls. (Photo by Lisa M. Esquivel Long of News-Sentinel.com)
When complete, Fort Wayne's tunnel will be similar to this one in Indianapolis. (News-Sentinel.com file photo by Kevin Leininger)
Workers on the tunnel project must line the walls with concrete to prevent rocks from falling. (Photo by Lisa M. Esquivel Long of News-Sentinel.com)
Parts of the giant boring machine for the Fort Wayne's Deep Rock Tunnel are at the work site. (Photo by Lisa M. Esquivel Long of News-Sentinel.com)
Workers are lowered Tuesday into the working shaft for the Fort Wayne's Deep Rock Tunnel. (Photo by Lisa M. Esquivel Long of News-Sentinel.com)
A worker points to the path of the Fort Wayne's Deep Rock Tunnel on a map. (Photo by Lisa M. Esquivel Long of News-Sentinel.com)
T. J. Short, City Utilities project manager, holds one of the many rocks covering the floor of the tunnel project working shaft. The rocks will be crushed and reused in other public works projects, he said. (Photo by Lisa M. Esquivel Long of News-Sentinel.com)

Editor’s note: This story has been corrected to reflect that the public tours are to see the MamaJo boring machine.

More than 200 feet underground, a group of men worked Tuesday in the pleasant 55- to 60-degree conditions to create a concrete wall. Groundwater fell through hoses ringing the area, creating sounds like a visit to Niagara Falls that were punctuated by the shrieks of machinery. The smell of wet clay and limestone filled the shaft.

The men are creating a concrete wall in the shaft to keep rocks from tumbling down on workers as part of Fort Wayne’s Deep Rock Tunnel to prevent sewage from going into the city’s three rivers. The public will get a chance to see MamaJo 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Sept. 9. The city will release more details on the tours in the coming weeks.

Tuesday, media got a look st the work in the shaft, which required climbing into a yellow metal basket suspended from a crane that is swung several yards and then lowered into the shaft.

The nearly $200 million project, the largest public-works project in city history, will take years to complete. The boring machine will create a 5-mile tunnel between the sewage treatment plant and Foster Park at 5 feet an hour. That work won’t even begin until November after a 100-foot starter shaft is made, said Manfred Lechner, project manager, who has led similar projects around the world.

The tunnel should be completed by 2021, with neighborhood sewers connected by 2023. The tunnel is expected to reduce combined sewer overflows into the rivers by 90 percent, a reduction of 850 billion gallons on average a year, putting the city into compliance with federal mandates.

See related ‘big dig’ tunnel stories by clicking HERE.

The project passed another milestone Tuesday when City Utilities Deputy Director Matthew Wirtz announced the name of the boring machine.

Looking like a ’60s poster for the musical “Hair,” the logo for the name has blue waves for hair with a necklace with a drop pendant that’s the City Utilities logo.

Like a Greek goddess, she embodies the notion of a protector of the city’s rivers.

MamaJo is an acronym of the city’s rivers – MAumee, St. MArys and St. JOseph – and was chosen by a neighborhood advocate, said City Utilities spokesman Frank Suarez.

The rivers’ names are spelled out in MamaJo’s blue hair and will be removed after the public tours, Suarez said. The logo will be painted onto the boring machine and the image will be reused for other purposes, he said.

Parts of the borer are on the working shaft site. T.J. Short, City Utilities project mananger, said two major components have yet to come. One has been delayed by construction on Indiana highways, he said. It should arrive Wednesday. The machine, manufactured in Germany, was disassembled for shipping, and parts have spent the last two months in Gary.

The bottom of the shaft is covered in small rocks. Short said the city will crush and strain the rocks to use them in other public works projects.

Residents can see tunnel updates at fortwaynetunnel.org.


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