CLEVELAND: Akron’s giant tunnel for sewer runoff is shrinking — even before it is built.
The city is modifying plans for the $200 million Ohio Erie Canal Tunnel, Akron spokesman Brian Gresser said Friday at a two-day program on the “State of the Cuyahoga River.”
Akron has determined that changing the interior dimension of the tunnel from 27 feet in diameter to 20 feet will cost the city less and shorten the project’s construction time, he said.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has approved the change, Gresser said.
The southern terminus of the 5,550-foot tunnel will be near West Exchange Street and the Akron Innerbelt. The tunnel, 150 feet below ground, will go under the Innerbelt and run east of the Diamond Grille at West Market Street. It will then run north along Hickory Street and end south of Memorial Parkway.
The tunnel is being designed. Construction is about a year away and scheduled for completion by Dec. 31, 2018.
The biggest problem Akron found is there are few rigs capable of drilling a tunnel 27 feet in diameter, Gresser said, calling it an odd dimension. The city would need a custom-made machine to drill a tunnel that size.
More rigs are capable of drilling tunnels 20 feet in diameter. Gresser said a rig that will be drilling sewer tunnels in the Cleveland area could be refurbished and moved to Akron to expedite the drilling here, he said.
The original tunnel was designed to store up to 25.6 million gallons of stormwater and raw sewage after heavy rains and snow melts.
The new tunnel will be capable of storing up to 14 million gallons of runoff, Gresser said.
The city also will add a storage basin capable of handling up to 15 million gallons of runoff. It will be located along the Little Cuyahoga River, about a half-mile north of the Mustill Store near Lock 15.
An additional high-rate treatment system would be added at that location in the future to boost Akron treatment capabilities.
The city has hired the firm DLZ to lead the design and engineering work on the giant tunnel. California-based Jacobs Associates and tunnel experts Jenny Engineering Corp., from New Jersey, are involved as subcontractors. Akron city engineers performed initial design work for the tunnel.
The city’s Long-Term Control Plan for the sewer system also calls for a second tunnel in North Akron. It will be 20 feet in diameter and 10,000 feet in length. It would be capable of storing up to 23 million gallons of water. It would cost $146 million. It would be bid in late April 2023 and would be operational by Dec. 31, 2026.
Akron is still waiting for U.S. District Judge John Adams to rule on a proposed consent decree involving the city, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Ohio EPA to correct the sewer overflows by 2027.
The agreement calls for zero untreated overflows from Akron’s sewer system.
The latest price tag of $837 million (in 2010 dollars) will increase service rates for about 300,000 sewer customers in Akron and 13 suburbs.
The city is proceeding as if the consent decree has been approved, Gresser said.
Last June, Adams hired a law professor from Oregon to review the consent decree, but Akron has heard no details of what Craig N. Johnston of Lewis and Clark College’s Law School will propose, Gresser told the audience.
Johnston said he anticipated giving Adams a final report in September.
Bob Downing can be reached at 330-996-3745 or email@example.com.