Chicago — Mayor Rahm Emanuel was joined by Senator Dick Durbin, Alderman Margaret Laurino (39th Ward) and other partners in breaking ground for construction of a new Stormwater Diversion Tunnel to relieve the threat of catastrophic flooding in Albany Park.  The joint  Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT)/Metropolitan Water and Reclamation District (MWRD) project will take two years to construct a tunnel 150 feet below ground level to divert stormwater about 1.4 miles from the North Branch of the Chicago River to the North Shore Channel.

“No resident of the City of Chicago should have to live in fear of the type of devastating floods that Albany Park residents have lived through twice in recent years,” Mayor Emanuel said. “A project of this magnitude takes teamwork and we are very pleased to work with our partners at the federal, state and local level to get this work under way and deliver the 21stCentury infrastructure that the residents of this neighborhood need and deserve.”

Since 2008, Albany Park has experienced two major floods that have affected hundreds of homes in the northwest side community along the North Branch of the Chicago River. After the last round of serious flooding in April 2013, Mayor Emanuel pledged the city would address the problem in a comprehensive way and directed CDOT to move forward with design and engineering of a drainage tunnel. The approximately $70 million project will produce an estimated 250 construction jobs.

The 18-foot diameter tunnel will have an intake shaft at a bend in the river in Eugene Field Park just east of Pulaski Road. It will kick into operation before the water level reaches flood stage and will divert a flow of 2,300 cubic feet of water per second, bypassing Albany Park and emptying at an outlet shaft at River Park just south of Foster Avenue into the North Shore Channel.  The tunnel will not have an adverse impact upstream or downstream or on wildlife. The project cost is being funded through a combination of federal, state and local funds. In addition to the 39th Ward, the project also affects the 33rd Ward, represented by Alderman Deborah Mell, and the 40th Ward, represented by Alderman Patrick O’Connor.

"After seeing firsthand the devastation caused by flooding in Albany Park, it’s gratifying to help break ground on a long-term solution that will prevent future problems," said Sen. Durbin. "It seems that 100 year floods are now happening every few years – something with which the residents of this neighborhood are all too familiar.  This project is the product of federal, state, and local groups working together, and I look forward to the peace of mind its completion will provide for the residents of Albany Park and North Park.”

"The Albany Park Stormwater Diversion Tunnel is a high priority project for CDOT and we are looking forward to completing construction as quickly as possible and delivering relief from the fear of flooding for residents of the area," CDOT First Deputy Commissioner Randy Conner said. “In the short term, CDOT has been working hard to put temporary barriers in place that are intended to protect the neighborhood from potential floods until the project is complete.”