Fort Wayne public officials broke ground on the largest infrastructure project in the city’s history in an effort to improve water quality and reduce the amount of sewage that flows into rivers.
The city’s combined sewer system can cause sewage to overflow into rivers when it rains. A new five mile, $188 million tunnel will reduce those overflows by 90 percent.
Mayor Tom Henry says while public officials don’t often campaign on utility projects, providing “good, safe, clean water to our citizens” is one of the most important things the city can do.
Projects like this can also have an impact on economic development efforts. Kumar Menon, deputy director for city utilities, says in Fort Wayne’s case, the tunnel helps make a $25 million riverfront project viable.
“For generations to come, this is going to change who we are a city, this is going to change how we celebrate our rivers,” Menon says.
The tunnel should go online in 2023. Indianapolis is also building a tunnel, and other cities, including South Bend and Evansville, want to reduce overflows through other infrastructure projects.