Columbus Underground Tunnel Work Not Moving As Fast As Expected

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UPDATED: Thursday February 27, 2014 11:32 AM

Columbus residents have been paying higher sewer rates for more than a decade as part of the largest and most expensive public works project ever in the city's history.

10TV first told you about this underground tunnel last year.

Crews are building it so that the city will no longer have to dump raw sewage into the Scioto River, when pipes get overwhelmed during heavy rains.
 
The question is - will it be done on time?
 
If you want to see what a $324 million storm sewer project looks like, you need to travel by construction elevator to 170 feet below the city. Then, jump on an underground train that takes you into a world few will ever see.

When we first entered the tunnel last year when the project was just underway.

Now, crews say they've burrowed nearly 10,000 feet or about two miles.

“Has the progress been hampered? Yeah, We've had a lot of water, we have groundwater. Progress isn't as great as we wanted, but we've picked it up recently,” says Bob Rautenber, Project Manager.

A 95 ton drill is chewing rock at a rate of 70 feet per day.

It started on Frank Road near the wastewater treatment plant. Now, it's just south of Greenlawn Avenue.

When complete...

“The tunnel is going to hold 60 million gallons of water," says Rautenberg.

That water includes raw sewage.

Thirty-eight times a year, overflows in the city's combined sewer and storm water system get overwhelmed during heavy rains.  That results in raw sewage pumped into the Scioto River.
 
The tunnel is designed to correct that.

Rautenberg told 10Tv's Kevin Landers that the contamination no longer reaches the river.

In the future, sewage overflows will be pumped to the water treatment plant before heading to the river.

When the project is completed, huge metal screens will be built to catch debris sent from storm water drains.

It will then be raked all the way to surface where it will eventually head to the landfill.

Crews say the 4-mile long project is about 40 percent complete.
 
The goal is to have the tunnel complete by September of next year.

To help pay for this project, sanitary sewer rates in Columbus began increasing in 2003.

The city says those increases will end this year.

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