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Thread: Third Water Tunnel

  1. #1

    Default Third Water Tunnel

    NY Times...

    The Underground Men


    ON a slate-gray afternoon at a Midtown construction site, seven men in hard hats and yellow rain gear stepped into a steel cage suspended over a dark hole nearly 60 stories deep. The last man on board latched the door shut, and the cage sank away from daylight and toward a sonorous, mechanical roar far below. The men inserted earplugs and then bowed their heads and folded their hands, as though observing a somber ceremony.

    The cage came to rest on a small platform in an eerie, dim world. Light bulbs affixed to craggy rock walls showed a cavernous, 300-foot-long tunnel. A few men plodded toward the cage, lugging tools and sloshing through six inches of water. Shrouded in silvery dust, two men guided a jumbo drill that resembled a terrifying robot from a science fiction movie and deafeningly bored into ancient Manhattan bedrock.

    Soon the drilling stopped. It was shift change, and there were barked salutations and brisk backslaps as the men stepped out of the cage. Eamon O'Donnell, a broad man with a red mustache who had been "in the hole" since 7 a.m., climbed aboard the cage and gestured toward one end of the tunnel. "We'll be back tomorrow," he said, "to give her hell."

    These men are sandhogs. They build the city by digging. And now they are carving out the city's Third Water Tunnel.

    This particular morning, 600 feet below 10th Avenue and 30th Street, about 40 sandhogs are excavating the first few hundred feet of the tunnel's Manhattan spur. When completed in 2020, half a century after work began, the tunnel will stretch 60 miles and ferry one billion gallons of water to the city each day.

    At $6 billion, the tunnel is the costliest capital project the city has ever undertaken. The nine-mile Manhattan spur alone will cost $670 million and will take seven years to finish.

    The size of the tunnel is also reflected in a more sobering statistic: 24 people have died during its construction, all but 3 of them sandhogs.

    A steel cage transports some sandhogs 60 stories under Midtown to dig the spur of the Third Water Tunnel.

    "We're urban miners," said Richard Fitzsimmons Jr., a third generation sandhog and union leader. "Except we're not mining for ore. We're mining the earth and putting in concrete."

    Dennis O'Neill, a sandhog working 60 stories below Manhattan's west side.

  2. #2

    Default 60-stories beneath Manhattan, one of city's largest projects

    More from the tunnel:

    The fountain in Central Park Reservoir was added in 1917 — 55 years after the reservoir was constructed — to mark the activation of City Water Tunnel No. 1. Today, the five spouts of the refurbished fountain, representing each of the City's five boroughs, send plumes of water more than 80 feet high.

    The illuminated fountain in the Reservoir stands as a bold symbol of City Water Tunnel No. 3.

  3. #3

    Default 60-stories beneath Manhattan, one of city's largest projects


    I remember seeing a television special about this way back in highschool. Amazing this sort of long term planning can happen over the course of so many different administrations.

  4. #4

    Default 60-stories beneath Manhattan, one of city's largest projects

    This is really cool! Thanks, for sharing this information! I had never even heard of this project until that third die hard movie came out. *Also, Chris makes a good point. Personally, I am suprised that the incoming administrations never tried to cancel this out of spite for the outgoing administrations.

    (Edited by amigo32 at 12:57 am on Jan. 12, 2003)

  5. #5

    Default 60-stories beneath Manhattan, one of city's largest projects

    I know that this is 60 stories in the opposite direction that what we wish for, but this is a great thread! I only wish the city would have the vision that was shown on this project, with subways, zoning, parks, etc. Just think how great New York could be in 2020 when this finally opens fully!

  6. #6


    October 9, 2003

    Mayor Goes 550 Feet Below to Note Start of Tunnel Construction


    The immense water tunnel — known officially as City Tunnel No. 3 — has been so long in the making that its construction has already outlasted five mayors, inspired thousands of news stories and killed 23 tunnel workers.

    And it still will not be finished for at least another 17 years.

    Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg pulled on rubber boots and a yellow slicker yesterday to descend 550 feet below the city's streets to note the start of construction on a long-awaited Manhattan leg of the water tunnel. Begun in 1970 when John V. Lindsay was mayor, the 60-mile-long tunnel in what city officials call the largest public works project in the city's history.

    It is also one of the most expensive, expected to cost $5.5 billion to $6 billion when it is eventually finished. For those keeping count, that is even more than Mr. Bloomberg is said to be worth. (His fortune has been estimated at $4.9 billion.)

    "I want to still be mayor when this is finished, so I can dedicate it," he told one worker. "Now, somebody throws the switch, and the water pours through or something?"

    New York City residents draw 1.3 billion gallons of water every day from upstate reservoirs. The water is delivered primarily through two aging tunnels that have been used since the early 1900's, and city engineers have long worried that a problem in either tunnel would leave the city without enough water.

    "We can live without a lot of things — water is not one of them," the mayor said. "It would be a very big problem for the city if one of those two tunnels were to collapse in any one portion. It could take up to a year to dig down, and repair it, and get it back in service."

    Mr. Bloomberg said the third tunnel would provide an extra layer of security for the city while allowing engineers to shut down the older tunnels temporarily for inspections and repairs. He said the valves in those tunnels have never been used since the tunnels were flooded with water.

    "One of the great fears is, if today you turned off one of those valves, you may not be able to get it back on, or maybe the tunnel may collapse if there's no water in it," he said.

    The third water tunnel, ranging from 10 to 24 feet in diameter, is being constructed in portions. The first portion, completed in 1998, extends 13 miles from the Hillview Reservoir in Westchester County through the Bronx, upper Manhattan and Queens, and is already carrying drinking water.

    Work is also proceeding on a 10.5-mile stretch of the tunnel from Red Hook, Brooklyn, to Woodside and Astoria, Queens, that is expected to open by 2007.

    Christopher O. Ward, commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection, said that by 2008, engineers would complete the Manhattan stretch of the tunnel, which will run along the West Side from Lincoln Center to the Holland Tunnel. In addition, they will build two spurs to bring water to the East Side.

    Mr. Ward also said the tunnel workers, known as sandhogs, would add a third work shift that could more than double progress on the tunnel construction to between 60 and 100 feet per day. "Obviously the geological challenges of what is down there really determine what the rate of speed is," he said.

    Mr. Bloomberg, accompanied by Mr. Ward and a handful of reporters, climbed yesterday into an orange metal elevator that rumbled noisily down past solid bedrock. At the bottom, he sloshed though muddy water to chat with the sandhogs.

    He even held an impromptu news conference in the cavernous tunnel, as water dripped from overhead, jokingly telling reporters that the tunnel would soon replace Room 9, the press room in City Hall. "The press can't go back up," he said.

    Asked if New Yorkers appreciated the city's efforts in digging the water tunnel, Mr. Bloomberg replied that his job was to make sure that people had water when they turned on their faucets, without having to worry about it.

    "It's like crime, leave it to the professionals," he said. "You see something, call 911 or 311. Let them do it."

    Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

  7. #7


    From downtown Express

    Sandhogs tunneling into Lower Manhattan

    By Josh Rogers

    Downtown Express photos by Josh Rogers

    Sandhogs take a lunch break.

    New York City’s third water tunnel will be penetrating into the very depths of Lower Manhattan in the next few months.

    Such a phallic description has perhaps never been more appropriate than for the tunnel – a 50-year, 60-mile, $6-billion project where currently only men work.

    Water Tunnel Number 3, 600 feet below ground, is so low that reportedly even rats don’t dare show their face. About the only species to be found is a sandhog – the name for the workers who have been toiling in eight-hour shifts since 1970. They expect to be finished in 2020.

    Jim O’Donnell, 42, has been working on the tunnel with his brother since he was 18 and said once a worker makes it through the first shift, he is well on his way to becoming a sandhog.

    “You know the first day, if they make it past that, they’re fine,” O’Donnell said last week during a tour of the tunnel with reporters and Mayor Mike Bloomberg.

    O’Donnell said some men and women can’t take the conditions — that is lack of natural light, the dark, wet tunnel or the idea of being a skyscraper below street level. He said the women who have tried in the past have given up either because of the conditions or the physical demands of the job.

    “There’s a lot of heavy machinery,” said O’Donnell. “You need some brawn.”

    Twenty-three workers have died building the tunnel. Construction has gotten safer since workers have begun using a tunnel-boring machine, nicknamed the mole, and have eliminated most of the need to use dynamite. Fire in the tunnel is another danger. Reporters were warned before descending down the lift that a fire is likely to cause a shut down of electricity and would cut off the ventilation. D.E.P. officials said sandhogs would make sure everyone gets a gas mask, which reporters would know was working if it caused a painful burning sensation in the mouth. They were warned to fight the instinct to pull the mask away.

    Water Tunnel 3 will allow the city to shut its two early-20th century tunnels for repairs.

    “The tunnel will give us security that really we absolutely have to have,” Bloomberg said.

    Christopher Ward, the city’s commissioner of the Dept. of Environmental Protection, said both tunnels are in good shape, but it takes years to drain and repair them, so you can’t wait to see signs of deterioration.

    Stage 2 of the project involving an 8.5-mile stretch in Manhattan and 5.5 miles in Brooklyn and Queens is scheduled to be completed in 2008, at which time repairs on the existing tunnels will begin.

    Ward said shafts connecting the tunnel to the street will provide opportunities to build new parks in some places. One is planned for the lot at Hudson and Houston Sts. and is likely to made into a second ballpark across the street from J.J. Walker Park.

    The sandhogs expect to get there in six months and it won’t be long after that they will be under Tribeca. Judy Duffy, assistant district manager of Community Board 1, said there will be a shaft near the Holland Tunnel rotary at Laight St. and one at James Madison Plaza, near St. James Place and Madison St.

    Another shaft is expected to be built on Ninth Ave. on a little-trafficked street between 13th and 14th Sts.

    The shafts take about 18 months to build, but Duffy said people from other community boards have told her that shaft construction is only disruptive the first few weeks when the work is at street level. The tunnel construction causes virtually no disruption because it is so far from the street.

    Ward said D.E.P. has adjusted the route so it will be able to work simultaneously on different parts of the tunnel and shave two years off the completion date.

    Once the Downtown section is finished, the sandhogs will head north from 30th St. up to Lincoln Center.

    The sandhogs currently work two shifts a day, but the city expects to expand to three shortly. The job includes using the mole to carve out the rock, which is a relatively quiet process. Every five feet of tunnel dug out produces enough rocks to fill a train of about 60 feet long. The train is then transported to the shaker – a machine that breaks the rock into smaller pieces. The shaker makes sounds as loud as explosions and is the loudest noise heard in the tunnel on a typical day. The smaller rocks are loaded onto a conveyor belt that transports the rocks up to street level.

    Bloomberg said he respected the sandhogs’ sacrifice. “It’s a dangerous job,” he said. “It’s cold. It’s damp it’s confined and there’s very big machinery.”

    Paul Wegman, 24, who has been working in the tunnel for three years, said he is one of the “hillbilly sandhogs” because he drives 125 miles every day from Upstate New York. He said he sometimes thinks about the job’s importance to the city, but mostly he thinks of it the same as one of his previous construction jobs. “At first I was like, ‘wow, look at all this,’ he said. “After awhile, it’s a job.”

  8. #8


    Has anyone ever proposed using the dirt/rocks from this project for landfill? Is it physically and/or politically possible? It seems like New York City could use the extra land, what with the housing crunch and everything.

    On a related note, has anyone mentioned landfill possibilities for the future 7 train extension or SAS projects? I've heard that the Gateway National Recreation Area was the result of landfill from the F train...

  9. #9


    February 29, 2004


    A Shaft as Deep as Residents' Opposition to It


    Workers building the city's third water tunnel have been drilling, boring and blasting their way though the bedrock beneath the streets of New York for more than three decades. But with the 8.5-mile Manhattan leg of the 60-mile project's second stage, tunnel planners have run into an obstacle that could be even more formidable than granite: East Side neighborhood activism.

    Construction won't reach the East Side for two more years - the Manhattan leg is not expected to be finished until 2008 - but residents have already collected nearly 1,000 signatures opposing plans by the city's Department of Environmental Protection to dig a 200-foot-wide hole for a water distribution shaft on 54th Street near Second Avenue. Dozens of people have attended heated community meetings, and many elected officials, including the City Council speaker, Gifford Miller, oppose the plan.

    Greg Cranford, a leader of the shaft opposition, says such a project is inappropriate for a corner where there are three residential towers.

    "This is a nice, residential, pedestrian-oriented neighborhood that they want to turn into a construction site," said Mr. Cranford, an architect who has lived in the Connaught Tower at 54th Street and Second Avenue for 10 years. "We're not saying don't build it. We're just saying this isn't the right site."

    The neighborhood group and its consultants have proposed a spot near the Queensboro Bridge, on the north side of 59th Street between First and Second Avenues, as a less-populated alternative. But so far, tunnel planners are unmoved. Among the factors working against the alternate site is that the city doesn't own the property, said Charles Sturcken, an environmental department spokesman. If the city digs in the middle of 54th Street, he added, it doesn't have to pay for the land.

    The third water tunnel, expected to cost $6 billion, has long been defended as a project needed to ensure New York's water supply. Mr. Sturcken noted that additional shafts are being dug throughout the city, adding that none of them have aroused the opposition currently brewing on the East Side.

    Mr. Cranford was not apologetic.

    "They're accustomed to just overwhelming people with facts," he said, "and the public often doesn't have experts that are able to counter them. We do. They're dealing with an educated populace here."

    Arguing that the shaft would lead to increased noise and crime and obstruct fire trucks, he added that East Siders do not plan to give up. "People are ready to lie down in the street," he said. "This is like civil disobedience. I'm serious; we're not going to let it happen."

    Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

  10. #10


    Fallen Trees Signal Start of Shaft Work

    by Carl Glassman

    The first sign that something big was happening across the street was the felling of trees, nine large honey locusts and London Plains. Then it was the sight of men feeding the remains into wood-chippers.

    Residents living on Hudson and Laight Streets across from the Holland Tunnel traffic rotary were outraged and bewildered by what they saw.

    "I was tempted to run out and say, 'What's going on?'" said Toni Schowalter, of 155 Hudson St., who watched workers quickly chop down four or five "glorious" trees outside her window on Hudson Street. What seemed especially odd, Schowalter said, was that improvements to the rotary, including park-like spaces with benches, walkways and new lighting, had just been completed.

    "Everything has been so slow," she said. "Then here they come and in literally an hour or two they pull up the trees."

    "Now the trees are all gone," added Schowalter's husband, Pierre Delerive. "The area is covered with gravel and nothing shields us from the view of the traffic out of the tunnel."

    For years to come, nearby residents will be seeing more than just traffic outside their windows. Work has just begun on what the city calls simply "27B." In a narrow fenced-off area between Hudson Street and exit lanes of the tunnel rotary, machines will dig one of many shafts that will connect to the second of two sections of the city's Water Tunnel No. 3, now being burrowed into deep bedrock and inching its way downtown. When the 1.5 billion gallons of water a day finally begins flowing through the tunnel, in about 2011 or 2012, it will rise up the shaft to a distribution chamber, just below the ground's surface and into water mains serving Lower Manhattan.

    The shaft, 35 feet in diameter, will penetrate 540 feet into the ground, all but 75 feet of which will be through bedrock. The workers will spend nine months drilling a 14-inch wide shaft all the way down. Then they will drill upward, widening the hole to 12 feet, with the debris carried away underground.

    Widening the shaft to its full 35-foot diameter will require many months of blasting with dynamite. Boring machinery alone can not do the job, said Ian Michaels, a spokesman for the city's Department of Environmental Protection, the agency in charge of the project. He added that no more than "mild rumbles" will be felt above ground. "I've never heard of any incident or damage," he said.

    Once the hole is dug, it will take three more years for the installation of valves, chambers and "a ton of equipment," Michaels said. A crane will be on site to lower men and machinery into the shaft.

    As for the trees, Michaels said that they will be replaced when the project is complete. "We're making sure that trees are put back at the end of the day," said Community Board 1 district manager Paul Goldstein, who fielded calls from angry residents who watched the trees being destroyed.

    Erica Rooney, who lives at Beach and Hudson Streets, was one of those irate callers. A self-described "tree person," Rooney said she was relieved to learn that the tree removal was not "gratuitous destruction." She said she now closes the blinds of her windows overlooking where the trees had stood.

    "I love trees and now I look out there and all I see are cars and the ghost of the trees that were there," she said. "It's just very, very bare."

  11. #11
    Chief Antagonist Ninjahedge's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2003


    Well, they were driving sheet pile over here by the HS on Hudson street for about 2 weeks. They closed the parking lot to make the access tunnel there.

    They could only have a few hour window to do the driving, starting at 4PM, and our office is less than a block away.

    It has got to be one of the noisiest things I have ever heard!!!!

    Anyway, I just hope they finish what they need to do. They seem to be lifting the rebar-cages into the hole now, but I didn't see them excavating or removing any soil (maybe they worked overnight....)

    As for the East Village, don't you love their quote?

    'We know it is needed and we are for it, just Not In Our Back Yard...'

  12. #12


    They have to make a foundation for the raise-boring drill rig to sit on. Then they will drill the initial 14" hole.

  13. #13


    By the way-another shaft is currently being excavated at E 4th St and the Bowery(31B) with others getting under way very soon at Lafayette St/Grand St(30B) and Gansvoort St east of Hudson St.(27B)

    This is in addition to the two mentioned above-Hudson/Laight(29B) and Hudson/Houston.(28B).

    The bulk of the excavated rock will be removed through the tunnel shaft at 30th St and 10th Ave(26B).

    The shafts and some of the tunnelling is under a $680 million contract which only had 2 bidders.

  14. #14


    Shaft project isn’t such a blast, says one neighbor

    By Vanessa Romo

    The city’s Department of Environmen-tal Protection began rock blasting at two new shaft sites on Nov. 1, entering a new phase of construction on the Manhattan leg of Water Tunnel No. 3. At $6 billion, the tunnel is the largest capital construction project ever in New York City.

    Explosives 20 to 30 feet below the surface at E. Fourth St. between Lafayette St. and Cooper Square and at Hudson and Laight Sts. in Tribeca are being used to create new water shafts and chambers that will connect to the water tunnel currently being drilled 550 feet below street level. Once they are connected, the shafts, which measure 25 feet in diameter, will convey water from the tunnels to the surface water-main distribution system.

    A series of warning horns are sounded prior to each blast, which last about 10 seconds. City regulations limit the blasts to two per day.

    Despite dire reports by the Daily News and WINS news radio about noise complaints and rats running rampant because of the underground explosions, Pi Gardener, executive director of the Merchant’s House Museum, a landmarked building erected in 1832, said effects of the blasting have been minimal. The building at E. Fourth St. is next door to the construction site. “It feels like a subway is below us, but it’s not really very noticeable,” she said.

    Gardener said a monitor placed in the basement of the museum by D.E.P. measures the vibrations in the building each time a blast occurs to make sure it is an acceptable level. “We’re being handled with kid gloves,” she said.

    Charles Sturcken, a D.E.P. spokesperson, said the agency conducted a thorough environmental impact study prior to drilling and blasting to ensure that the community would not suffer any unnecessary disruptions. The agency also hired a noise consultant who has been advising them on the city’s new noise codes.

    “We haven’t had any complaints about the noise of the blasts,” Sturcken said. But the agency is aware of complaints about a hum emanating from the shafts. The noise is a result of a machine that prepares the ground for blasting by freezing it, said Sturcken. “The hum will continue for the duration of the drilling and blasting, which should be another two to three months,” he added.

    Underground drilling of Tunnel No. 3, which connects Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn, began in 1970. Completion of the project eventually spanning a total of 60 miles is slated for 2020.

    Drilling of the latest Manhattan section started in 2003 and runs from W. 30th St. to the Holland Tunnel, at which point a second section loops north from there up the West Side to Lincoln Center. In all, the new Manhattan segment will measure 8.5 miles and is expected to be activated in 2012.

    The two sites currently under construction are slated to become public spaces. “The shaft site at E. Fourth St. will be a public garden with benches to meditate and the Hudson and Laight site, which is part of the Holland Tunnel rotary, will be a tree-planting space,” Strucken said.

  15. #15
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    NYC - Downtown


    There is another drilling site at Grand / Lafayette (former parking lot).

    This, too, is supposed to be converted to "park" space.

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