Water Tunnel No. 3 Is One Of City's Largest Infrastructure Projects Ever

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – For more than 100 years, Manhattan has relied on one tunnel to provide water to the entire borough.

As CBS 2’s Hazel Sanchez reported, that all changed Wednesday afternoon, where the city opened up a brand new water tunnel.

After more than four decades, battling budget woes and political red tape, crews have finally completed the Manhattan section of Water Tunnel No. 3. Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced the completion of the 8.5-mile Manhattan section of the tunnel from inside its valve room, 20 stories beneath Central Park.

“There is no other infrastructure project that means more to protecting New York City’s future than water tunnel number 3,” Bloomberg said. “If we were to lose one of the tunnels without back-up, that part of the city would be uninhabitable.”

The new tunnel will eventually allow the shutdown of the first water tunnel so it can be inspected and repaired for the first time, WCBS 880’s Rich Lamb reported.

Water Tunnel No. 1 was put into service in 1917, when Woodrow Wilson was president and World War I was being fought. Ever since then, it has been the sole artery for Manhattan, transporting water from the Hillview Reservoir in Yonkers.

Tunnel No. 2 serves all boroughs except Manhattan.

The first stage of Tunnel No. 3 opened in 1998, servicing parts of the Bronx, Northern Manhattan, and Queens. The completion of the new stage – stretching down to Battery Park – gives the entire borough of Manhattan a backup for the first time ever.

“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,” Bloomberg said

Bloomberg officially turned on the 8.5-mile section of tunnel at City Hall Park. It can provide 350 million gallons of water consumed each day in Manhattan.

He said the drinking water that flows through the new tunnel will not taste different.

“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.

New York City water infrastructure map (credit: nyc.gov)

New York City water infrastructure map (credit: nyc.gov)


But the entire project is far from complete. The final stage of Tunnel No. 3, which stretches into Brooklyn, is set to go into service in 2021.

More than 82 million cubic feet of rock and soil was excavated for the tunnel. That is enough soil to fill Madison Square Garden more than 200 times.

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