Despite its name, the tunnel-boring machine known as Lucy Diggs Slowe is moving along at a good clip, said George Hawkins, CEO of DC Water. The machine, which is named after Howard University’s first dean of women, is moving at about 50 feet a day as it bores a 2,700-foot-long tunnel underneath First Street NW, according to project engineers.
The digging is on track to finish on time in December. The next phase, which will be done by April, will involve connecting the tunnel to existing sewers in the flood-prone Northwest neighborhoods of Bloomingdale and LeDroit Park. The project should put an end to the flooding.
For some Bloomingdale residents, the work toward a solution has been worse than the problem.
“The construction has gone on at all hours of the day, way later than it’s supposed to go on,” said Bloomingdale resident Brandon Skall, 36. “I have a 7-month-old, and there’s no chance for my baby to sleep during the day.”
Plus, vibrations from the digging have damaged his home, causing keystones to fall out of the window arches, he said.
DC Water is trying to minimize the massive construction project’s disruption to the community, said Hawkins. For instance, contractors are using an innovative new technique of freezing the ground around certain construction areas, creating ice walls up to 10 feet thick.
The ice “minimizes dust and vibrations where we’re connecting the new tunnel to the existing sewage system,” Hawkins said.
Overall, the project is a necessary evil, said Teri Janine Quinn, 39, president of the Bloomingdale Civic Association.
“There have been lots of inconveniences, but once we are able to get past this construction project, I’m hopeful we will see the kind of relief we’ve been promised,” she said.
More on DC Water’s big dig