The Journal Gazette
Wednesday, April 19, 2017 1:00 am

Council gives initial OK on contract for sewer tunnel

DAVE GONG | For The Journal Gazette

The Fort Wayne City Council on Tuesday granted unanimous preliminary approval for a $187.7 million construction contract to build the Three Rivers Overflow Reduction and Protection Tunnel. 

It's the largest public works project ever undertaken by the city of Fort Wayne and is part of the city's long-term control plan to reduce the average annual number of combined sewer overflows from 76 to four. The contract will be awarded to Salini Impreglio/S.A. Healy Joint Venture, which was the lowest of five bidders. The Fort Wayne tunnel is the joint venture's fourth combined sewer overflow project, City Utilities' Mike Kiester told the council.

The company recently installed a freshwater intake at Lake Mead near Las Vegas, Kiester said, which consisted of a 23.5-foot-diameter tunnel that is 15,000 feet long and 600 feet deep. Many of the operators and supervisors who worked on that project will be involved in the Fort Wayne tunnel, Kiester said. 

“It was the highest water-pressure project ever done in the United States,” Kiester said. “This firm, they've worked around water, they've worked around high water pressures much more severe than we anticipate seeing here in Fort Wayne, so they should come well-qualified to us.”

The project is expected to take 54 months, or 41/2 years, Kiester said. The tunnel boring machine will run 24 hours a day, five or six days a week, Kiester said. Maintenance on the machine will be performed on the off-shift hours. 

“We're proposing to go almost 25,000 feet, or five miles, starting at our east Dwenger site next to our water pollution control plant, basically following the Maumee River and then the St. Marys River down to the northern end of Foster Park,” Kiester said. 

Safety will be a major component of the project, Kiester said, adding that the selected contractor will be providing dedicated safety staff members to monitor the construction process. The company has site-specific health and safety plans, on which all employees are trained.

“They have a good safety manager assigned to this project, he's an EMT as well as a certified risk management professional,” Kiester said.

Once construction begins, there will be a phone line, operated 24 hours a day, which residents can call should they have safety concerns. 

The massive project is also expected to create local jobs, Kiester said. 

“There are obviously some skills that are required to run the boring machine, so they will bring in some of their skilled labor to run those,” Kiester said. “But outside of that, I know they've been meeting with the local labor unions, the local operator unions and they're going to use as much local talent as they can, local workers, on this project.”

Councilman John Crawford, R-at large, was absent Tuesday. 

In other business, the City Council approved more than $25 million in street and road improvement projects, including a $14 million expansion of Dupont Road between Lima and Coldwater roads. 

Plans for that project call for adding two travel lanes in each direction, with dedicated turn lanes to ease congestion. Additionally, the Pufferbelly Trail will be extended down the south side of Dupont Road, crossing under the road to connect with the Salomon Farm Trail. A 5-foot-wide sidewalk will be placed on the north side of the road to encourage more pedestrian activity.

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