Akron starts four-year construction project on mile-long tunnel

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AKRON, Ohio-- It is described as the largest construction project ever in the city of Akron: a three-story high, mile-long tunnel that will be bored 160-feet underneath the city's downtown.

The project is part of an EPA mandate to help manage overflow from torrential rainfall that can overwhelm the city's aging sewers.

"Between 25 percent and 30 percent are combined sewers. They were built, you know, a hundred years ago and that was state of the art technology when they were constructed. But, as we have learned over the years, they cause pollution of our waterways and we are looking to clean that up," said Interim Environmental Division Manager Michelle DiFiore.

The city kicked off the four-year-long, $190 million project with fireworks on Friday alongside the Ohio Erie Canal, where a massive boring machine will start cutting into the earth after it is built.

The machine itself will take a year to construct before the actual digging can begin.

"When you think of it from an engineering standpoint, this is going under the very heart of our city, going under downtown Akron. My guess is that there will be some folks that might not be paying real close attention, they might not know its even happening," said Akron City Council President Mike Freeman.

"You won't be able to feel the tunnel-boring machine as it bores its way underneath the city. As we construct the shaft, there may be minor blasting. It's controlled explosives to excavate the shaft," said DiFiore, adding that a plan is in place to notify people working and living in the area before the blasting happens.

When the tunnel is completed, the boring machine will re-emerge at Lock 1, near Canal Park downtown.

During construction a part of the towpath trail will be rerouted.

"Summit County and Akron were the first to complete the towpath trail end-to-end through Summit County, and we don't want to be the first ones to close it. So we looked at 13 ways to keep it open," said Deputy Service Director Phil Montgomery.

"The proposed method, which was a relocation onto Hickory Street temporarily during the duration of the project, was the most economical and the safest route for the people that are traversing the towpath," Montgomery said.

Once completed, the tunnel is intended to hold more than 25 million gallons of storm water until it can be treated and released without contaminating local streams.

The city also said it has an agreement with contractor, Kenny Construction of Illinois, to make sure that many of the jobs related to the project are kept local.​

Ohio Erie Canal