NE Ohio Regional Sewer District begins work on tunnel project at edge of University Circle

Posted at 6:50 AM, Sep 21, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-21 06:50:04-04

If you're like many east side commuters who travel Martin Luther King Jr Drive into University Circle each day you've noticed the construction at the bottom of the hill between MLK and Stokes Boulevard that's taken out a lane of traffic. 

Get used to it because it will be that way for the next four years. The work is part of the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District's Doan Valley Storage Tunnel project.

Crews are in the site preparation phase of the project that cost wise is on a par with the Quicken Loans Arena Transformation, $142 million but one you will never really see. 

It's part of the district's larger 25-year, $3 billion Project Clean Lake—a federally mandated effort to reduce the level of untreated sewage and runoff that annually flows into Lake Erie during heavy rains.

From this grassy spot over Doan Brook between the two roadways, a 50 foot in diameter shaft will be dug about 50 feet down from which three tunnels will be dug.

"And from there we're going to mine all of these tunnels that nobody will ever see and folks in University Circle won't even know that we're mining right underneath their feet," said Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District Spokesperson Jennifer Elting.

"The largest one is about 10,000 feet long and that will pop up at about Superior and E. 115th Street," said Elting of the 18' in diameter tunnel. The other 8.5' in diameter tunnels will stretch 3,000 feet north on MLK and 6,300 feet south to Woodland & Buckeye.

During the 1970's an estimated nine billion gallons of untreated water would flow into Lake Erie during heavy rains. Since then they've been able to reduce that to 4 billion gallons, Project Clean Lake will eventually take that to under a half-billion by collecting and storing the water during rain events and then pumping it out at a later time when it can be treated and released into the lake.

The three tunnels involved in the Doan Valley project will be able to hold 365 million gallons annually.

"This project will focus mainly on overflow points that currently overflow into Doan Brook, there's about 11 of them right now," Elting said. 

"So we'll be able to have a much healthier, much cleaner Doan Brook, capture that combined sewage and eventually sends it to the Easterly Wastewater Treatment Plant for full treatment," she added.

The $3 billion project is entirely ratepayer-funded but the Sewer District said through the first three phases of the project they've been able to realize around $500 million in savings.

The Phase I Euclid Creek Tunnel Project is now complete and will be online once work on the pump station is complete. The Phase II storage tunnel project is about a third of the way complete.

The Doan Valley Tunnel expected to be completed in 2021.

"We're going to be on this site for four years," Elting said. "We're doing a lot of mining out of this site, this is our main mining site so you'll start to see cranes, you'll start to see big trucks, you'll see the trucks hauling a lot of the shale and the rock that we're mining underneath that will start coming out of here."