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One For The Road: Chicago's Deep Tunnel Opened 27 Years Ago

By Samantha Abernethy in Arts & Entertainment on May 24, 2012 10:30PM

The Deep Tunnel Project, in progress in Summit in October 1982. (Image Credit: Michael Earley

On this date in 1985, the Deep Tunnel opened. It was just one part of the massive system intended to channel storm water sewage overflows away from the lake and to a sewage treatment plant to be cleaned before returning to the system. It does its job, but still now there are times it rains, and sewage overflows into Lake Michigan because the full system hasn't been completed.

The project was estimated to cost $3.6 billion. Now after almost four decades of construction, $3 billion has been spent, and the project will continue until 2029. The Tribune writes:

Superlatives filled the air at the dedication on this date of 31 miles of tunnels that had been constructed deep underground, the first section of a vast project to control water pollution and flooding in the Chicago area. The Deep Tunnel "is the largest undertaking of its kind ever attempted by mankind," declared Raymond Rimkus, general superintendent of the Metropolitan Sanitary District of Greater Chicago, the agency that planned the project. For once, many of the superlatives were deserved. The Deep Tunnel, or the Tunnel and Reservoir Plan, was the largest public works project in Chicago's history and one of the biggest in the U.S.

Last fall the city reached a legal settlement with the feds and the state that requires the project to be done by 2029. Photographer Michael Earley has done a stunning series of photos of the Deep Tunnel project. We've included one here, and you can see the rest on Flickr.

Learn more about the Deep Tunnel in the video below from North Town News Magazine