Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Deputy Mayor for Operations Cas Holloway and Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Carter Strickland on Oct. 16 announced the completion and activation of the final Manhattan stage of City Water Tunnel No. 3, allowing Tunnel No. 3 to provide water to the entire borough of Manhattan for the first time.
The activation of Water Tunnel No. 3 will reduce the City’s dependence on Water Tunnel No. 1, providing crucial infrastructure redundancy and allowing the City to take Water Tunnel No. 1 offline, allowing it to be inspected and repaired for the first time since Tunnel No. 1 began continuous operation in 1917. The Manhattan portion of Water Tunnel No. 3 activated is 8.5 miles long and can provide the approximately 350 million gallons of water consumed each day by the borough. To date, the City has invested $4.7 billion in Tunnel No. 3 since construction began in 1970. Bloomberg made the announcement in Central Park at a water distribution site that is a part of Water Tunnel No. 3.
“The completion and activation of the final stage of City Water Tunnel No. 3 – one of the largest infrastructure projects in the City’s history – is a historic milestone in the city’s history,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “Water Tunnel No. 3 will ensure that millions of New Yorkers continue to have a reliable supply of water while also allowing us for the first time to do inspection and maintenance of the city’s First Water Tunnel.”
“The Third Water Tunnel is possible because of the hard work, dedication and sacrifice of thousands of men and women – planners, engineers, Sandhogs, contractors and many others – who have labored for two generations to ensure that the City has a safe, reliable water supply now, and far into the future,” said Deputy Mayor Cas Holloway. “As much as concrete, rock and steel the spirit of the City’s Department of Environmental Protection and its workforce are an essential element of this infrastructure that will endure.”
“City Water Tunnel No. 3 is a critical part of our infrastructure system that will ensure the continued delivery of the most basic need for 8.4 million New Yorkers – a reliable supply of high-quality water,” said Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Carter Strickland. “All New Yorkers can thank the generations of planners, engineers, and sandhogs who built our water supply system, which has been one of the city’s most significant engines of growth.”
“DDC is working to connect the new water tunnel to the City’s water mains, and from there to homes and businesses,” said Department of Design and Construction Commissioner David J. Burney, FAIA. “In the process, we’re improving the City’s infrastructure, with new water and sewer mains, roadway surfaces, sidewalks, street lights, and more. The 14 projects necessary to connect the new water tunnel were designed in-house by DDC engineers, and are being managed by the agency’s construction staff, in close coordination with local residents, businesses, and institutions, as well as our fellow City agencies. I thank Mayor Bloomberg and our partners at DEP for their dedication to completing this long-awaited project.”
“The hard work and dedication of three generations of Sandhogs helped make today possible,” said Rich Fitzsimmons, Business Manager of Local 147. “I’d like to thank Mayor Bloomberg for his commitment to Water Tunnel No. 3, and the other large infrastructure projects that provide good jobs and will ensure the city remains vibrant for the next generation of New Yorkers.”
First proposed in 1954, City Water Tunnel No. 3 was designed to be built in stages and preliminary work commenced in 1970. A lack of funding over various periods slowed progress and by the 1980s work was under way to build the 16 shafts that would connect the first stage of the tunnel to the local distribution system. The 13-mile long first stage of the tunnel runs from Hillview Reservoir in Yonkers, south through the Bronx, and into Manhattan. It turns east at Central Park and continues on through Roosevelt Island and into Astoria, Queens. It was placed into service in 1998 providing water to parts of the Bronx, Northern Manhattan and Astoria.
A tunnel boring machine began mining the second portion of the Manhattan leg of the tunnel in 2003. By 2006, it had excavated a 12-ft diameter tunnel roughly 500 ft below street level down the west side of the island from Central Park to Canal Street, and then on to the east side, in Lower Manhattan. It also dug a branch that runs east at 30th Street and loops north to the Manhattan side of the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge. By 2010, the tunnel had been lined with nearly 3 million cubic ft of concrete. In addition, 10 shafts, spaced roughly 20 blocks apart, were constructed in order to bring the water up from the tunnel to the large trunk water mains where it enters the local distribution system. As part of the project, more than 6 miles of trunk water mains and more than 11 miles of smaller distribution mains have been installed under the streets of Manhattan to deliver the water to residences and businesses in the service area.
Large parts of the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island are currently served by City Tunnel No. 2, which has been in continuous service since 1936. In 1993, work began on the 10.5-mile Brooklyn/Queens leg of City Tunnel No. 3, which will provide a critical redundancy for Tunnel No. 2 when work is completed in 2021. The Brooklyn/Queens leg of Tunnel No. 3 begins in Astoria, runs southeast through Maspeth and Woodhaven, then swings back to the southwest through Bedford-Stuyvesant, Park Slope, and Red Hook, where it connects to City Water Tunnel No. 2 and the Richmond Tunnel, which provides water to Staten Island.
The construction of City Water Tunnel No. 3 thus far has accounted for the excavation of more than 82 million cubic ft of soil and rock – enough to fill Madison Square Garden more than 200 times. In addition, approximately 30 million cubic ft of concrete has been installed to line the tunnels. The completion of the City Water Tunnel No. 3 will eventually allow for crews to inspect and perform maintenance on City Water Tunnels No. 1 and 2 for the first time since they were originally activated. From engineers to laborers, many workers have spent their entire careers planning and building City Water Tunnel No. 3. Many of the hundreds of laborers who contributed to the construction have fathers, uncles, and grandfathers who worked on Tunnels No. 1 and 2, and other New York City water supply tunnel projects.