Bloomberg: “Unsexy” Water Tunnel No. 3 is Open for Business (40 years on)

It only took 40 years to build, its the largest capital project in NYC history, and few are aware of it, but at long last Tunnel Three is flowing.  Without it, the city might have gone dry — in part because tunnels 1 and 2 are so old that they risk collapse.
A few years ago I was granted the rare opportunity to travel 600 feet underground and explore the tunnel as it was being built.  As I write in THE RIPPLE EFFECT, it was a fantastic experience, and I felt as if I’d been transported to another planet.  The NYC water system is stupendous, and the engineering of this tunnel is magnificent.  Here’s today’s NYT on the project:
After Decades, a Water Tunnel Can Now Serve All of Manhattan

Pool photo by Mary Altaffer

2006 Part of the tunnel running down the West Side of Manhattan.


Published: October 16, 2013
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Of all New York City’s sprawling mega-projects, the water tunnel snaking beneath the grid — connecting the Bronx to Upper Manhattan, Upper Manhattan to Central Park, Central Park to Queens, and, eventually, Queens to the western edge of Brooklyn — is perhaps the hardest to love.

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New York Board of Water Supply

1973 Water Tunnel No. 3 was begun in 1970. Here, construction beneath Highbridge Park in Washington Heights, Manhattan.

Mario Cabrera/Associated Press

1984 Gov. Mario M. Cuomo, with Mayor Edward I. Koch behind him, creating the New York City Water Finance Authority.

Thomas Monaster/NY Daily News Archive, via Getty Images

1991 Firefighters hoisting the body of a 12-year-old who fell into the depths.

Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

2013 Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg beneath Central Park after he announced the completion of the Manhattan portion of the tunnel on Wednesday.

The New York Times

The city has committed $4.7 billion on the project to date.

There will be no new subway to board when the work is done, no elevator to ride to the top of a skyscraper. Even the name is shrouded in anonymity: Water Tunnel No. 3, the last in a trilogy that few New Yorkers would pay to see.

But as Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg turned a ceremonial wheel in City Hall Park on Wednesday, sending waters gushing into a fountain, the city arrived at a seminal moment.

In one of the most significant milestones for the city’s water supply in nearly a century, the tunnel — authorized in 1954, begun in 1970 and considered the largest capital construction project ever undertaken in the five boroughs — will for the first time be equipped to provide water for all of Manhattan. Since 1917, the borough has relied on Tunnel No. 1, which was never inspected or significantly repaired after its opening.

“When I came into office,” Mr. Bloomberg said, “I asked, ‘What could literally close down this city?’ And a water tunnel failure would have really done that.”

The city has committed $4.7 billion on the project to date. A 10 1/2-mile section connecting Brooklyn and Queens will not be completed until 2021. It is intended to relieve the burden on Tunnel No. 2, which began operating in 1936.

“It’s not sexy,” Mr. Bloomberg said at a news conference at a distribution site beneath Central Park. “And nobody says thank you.”

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