MamaJo completes job after 26 months, Fort Wayne deep rock tunnel project moves to next phase

It took 26 months for the MamaJo tunnel boring machine to create a nearly 5-mile tunnel under the city.

Posted: Jul 7, 2021 7:48 PM
Updated: Jul 8, 2021 8:49 AM

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WFFT) -- The end of this phase has been a long time coming for Fort Wayne City Utilities Program Manager TJ Short.

“Thrilled actually,” he said. “It’s been a dream come true. Not just for myself but for this city also.”

Twenty-six months to be exact.

“We finally successfully made it to this end and the breakthrough, and right on target, right where we’re supposed to be at,” City Utilities’ Manager of Engineering Michael Kiester said.

The goal is to have the tunnel system active by the end of 2023 to prevent sewage overflow.

A few more steps are needed before then, like adding connecting shafts from surface sewers to the tunnel.

All of this is an effort to keep waste out of the rivers.

“Seventy-one times in a typical year, it rains enough to where the combined sewer overflows discharge, and that’ll be cut back to no more than four times in a year,” Short said.

The MamaJo tunnel boring machine is about 125 feet underground.

And that’s where it will stay.

Crews say they’re going to bury the first 40 or 50 feet of it underground.

“[The] crane, as big as it is, is not big enough to pull out pieces of the tunnel boring machine,” Short said.

And it would be costly too.

“The contractor tells me it’s just not economically feasible to do that, so they’ll just bury it instead,” Short said.

The price tag of the project went up without the expense.

“We started out, we were just around $188 million,” Kiester said. “Right now, we added a little bit of scope to the project, so we’re actually up to a $223 million project.”

The project overall has been in the works for years, and Kiester is thankful to everyone that has worked on it thus far.

“We’ve been planning on this, personally working on this since 2005 [or] 2006, so it’s been a long journey, a lot of work, a lot of faces involved,” he said.

Once this tunnel system is complete in a little over two years, it will be able to move 850 million gallons of combined sewage per day.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

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