Artificial caverns expanding beneath Chicago

[Image: Tunneling beneath Chicago; view larger!].

Due to Chicago’s ongoing TARP project—its Tunnel And Reservoir Plan—there are now “109.4 miles of tunnels bored beneath the Chicagoland area.” According to Tunnel Business Magazine, this massive network of new subterranean space includes “deep tunnels, drop shafts, near-surface connection and control structures and dewatering pump stations,” all embedded beneath the city. I would love to see Michael Cook sent there as a project photographer.

Until then, the above image shows us TARP’s first phase in action, with a tunneling machine breaking through and expanding the artificial caverns that now resonate below the streets of greater Chicago. TARP’s second phase—the so-called Chicago Underflow Plan—kicked off back in 2008, its work “consisting of [the] mining and construction of several reservoirs,” vast hollows that will occasionally fill with storm runoff and rain, reknitting urban hydrology from below.

(Thanks to Anya Domlesky for the link! Download back issues of Tunnel Business Magazine here).

8 thoughts on “Artificial caverns expanding beneath Chicago”

  1. I just want to say I love the fact that there is a magazine devoted to Tunnel Business.


    Just knowing it exists is enough for me. I feel better already.

  2. They are doing this in cities all across the country. Did ours here in Providence a few years back.

    Granted ours total only about 4 or 5 miles but they're 250 feet underground and pretty damned large bore too.

    In fact one runs underneath the office I work in.

  3. At least once in 2010 so far, the current network of tunnels and underground reservoirs was not enough to hold the rainfall of a storm.

    As a result, untreated sewage is pumped into Lake Michigan, polluting the lake and causing the beaches to close for 3 days.

    I'm not a fan of burying water. I'm a fan of using sustainable stormwater management techniques.

  4. This project has been going on in the Chicagoland Area for 10 years+. The Tunnels are not just under the city but across the suburbs as well. I grew up around one of the entrances to these tunnels. It didn't just start in 2008.

    The whole Chicagoland area was built on swamp and underneath that was solid limestone. When it would rain the ground would get super saturated and flood. So we have extensive storm drain systems that would divert the water into lake Michigan. These storm drains have not be able to handle the volume of rain, the increase in urban development and Farm run off in some areas. Eventually the storm drains began to back up into the sewer drains. So we were getting sewer water mixed with rain water every time it rained and all of this was going into the storm drains and into Lake Michigan. Every year beaches have been closed after storms because of high bacteria count caused by the sewage in the lake.

  5. Trace this project back and you'll find that no one actually authorized it. This is the latest of the plot by the Mole People (Mole Men is so 1950s) to undermine the surface dweller cities and prepare for their ultimate takeover.

    You have been warned!

  6. @Steven Vance

    I am not sure if you understand how Combined Sewer Overflows (CSO) work, but the sewer water is not being buried. What happens is when the main sewer/storm lines get full due to a large rain storm they begin to fill up the CSO. Ideally the CSO is designed to handle the influent of a very large storm. After the storm has passed the sewage in the main sewer lines run through the treatment plant then the sewage in the CSO get pumped into the treatment plant until it is completely empty again. So none of the sewage in the CSO is being dumped an forgotten.

    I am not sure if that was what your comment meant, but that is how a CSO works.

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