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Fort Wayne’s $150 million tunnel is making progress — with a long way still to go

The city is boring this $150 million tunnel 220 feet below the surface. When complete by 2025, the tunnel will reduce the amount of untreated sewage discharged into the rivers. But that comes with a cost to be repaid through higher rates. (News-Sentinel.com file photo by Kevin Leininger)
Precast concrete panels are stored above ground but will be installed as liners to keep groundwater from entering the tunnel. (News-Sentinel.com photo by Kevin Leininger)
Visitors and materials enter the tunnel through a massive 220-foot shaft neat the sewage treatment plant on Dwenger Avenue. (News-Sentinel.com photo by Kevin Leininger)

More than 200 feet below the surface, “MamaJo” has traveled unseen for about 1,500 feet. But she still has about 24,000 feet — nearly five miles — left on the $150 million journey that will dramatically reduce the amount of raw sewage that flows into Fort Wayne’s rivers during periods of heavy rain.

Names for the city’s three rivers — the Maumee, St. Marys and St. Joseph — the huge boring machine is now roughly under the Maumee west of the sewage filtration plant on Dwenger Avenue, where the 220-foot entry shaft is located. Traveling 70 feet a day five days a week, MamaJo is expected to reach its destination in Foster Park by 2023, with the tunnel operational by 2025.

With a diameter of 16 feet, the Three Rivers Protection and Overflow Tunnel, or 3RPORT, will collect flow from old combined storm and sanitary sewers and send it to the plant for treatment instead of sending it into the rivers in so-called “combined sewer overflows,” or CSOs. The tunnel will be able to handle a daily flow of about 850 million gallons.

The tunnel is part of a long-term $240 million plan to comply with a federal order requiring Fort Wayne to reduce sewage discharge into the rivers. The tunnel is expected to reduce CSOs by 90 percent. Rock removed during the tunneling process will be used by the city in various construction projects, saving taxpayers a total of about

City officials offered tours of the tunnel to local reporters Thursday. For more information and up-to-date progress reports, go to fortwaynetunnel.org

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