A trip inside the MSD Waterway Protection Tunnel

A trip inside the MSD Waterway Protection Tunnel
The Waterway Protection Tunnel will help prevent waste and stormwater from overflowing during heavy rain.
The Waterway Protection Tunnel will help prevent waste and stormwater from overflowing during heavy rain. (Source: Vincent Bradford, WAVE 3 News)

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - You probably aren’t aware of it, but a huge tunnel is being built under parts of Louisville.

After starting at 13th and Rowan streets, the tunnel is now under Spaghetti Junction. It will keep growing until it gets to Lexington Road and Grinstead Drive. We went underground to take a look.

MSD project manager Jacob Mathis says the tunnel will reduce pollution in the Ohio River and Beargrass Creek.
MSD project manager Jacob Mathis says the tunnel will reduce pollution in the Ohio River and Beargrass Creek. (Source: Vincent Bradford, WAVE 3 News)

Our trip started inside a cage lifted by a crane. That was followed by a drop of 220 feet underneath Louisville. We exited into a project that’s been in the works since 2017. MSD is building The Waterway Protection Tunnel to help prevent waste and stormwater from overflowing during heavy rain.

To get the job done MSD uses a boring machine nicknamed Bumblebee, after Louisville's boxing champion Muhammad Ali. Just like the legend, Bumblebee packs a punch. During its 24 hours of operation, 38 rotating discs are used to drill with 3.5 million pounds of thrust to get to the four mile long knockout.

The MSD Waterway Protection Tunnel started at 13th and Rowan streets. It will extend to Lexington Road and Grinstead Drive.
The MSD Waterway Protection Tunnel started at 13th and Rowan streets. It will extend to Lexington Road and Grinstead Drive. (Source: Vincent Bradford, WAVE 3 News)

According to MSD project manager Jacob Mathis, the tunnel will reduce pollution in the Ohio River and Beargrass Creek.

“It’s need to help improve the waterways,” Mathis said. “Every time it rains no more than a tenth of an inch which is a very small amount we have overflows of the sewer system into the water ways."

These are two of the rotating disk on "The Bumblebee," the tunnel boring machine being used on the Waterway Protection Tunnel.
These are two of the rotating disk on "The Bumblebee," the tunnel boring machine being used on the Waterway Protection Tunnel. (Source: Vincent Bradford, WAVE 3 News)

Mathis said the tunnel will reduce pollution in the Ohio River and Beargrass Creek.

Once the tunnel reaches Grinstead Drive it will be lined with 12 inch concrete before it's put into service to capture and store the overflow.

Map showing the path of the Waterway Protection Tunnel.
Map showing the path of the Waterway Protection Tunnel. (Source: MSD)

Steps in muddy water and a train ride hundreds of feet into the tunnel takes you to the 412 foot long boring machine.

Mathis said the project is expected to be completed by December 2020.

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