Massive water project hopes to link upstate reservoirs to New York City for generations

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Friday, September 9, 2022
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Eyewitness News reporter Kemberly Richardson got an exclusive peek at a water in tunnel in Queens dubbed as the most expensive water project in New York City history.

QUEENS, New York (WABC) -- The most expensive water project in New York City history is being built to last for generations ... lots of generations, and it's happening in a secret location in the city.

An iconic, nail-biting scene from the movie Die Hard 3, unfolded in a fictitious water tunnel in New York City.

However, the real deal is being built at an undisclosed location in Queens.

Eyewitness News reporter Kemberly Richardson got an exclusive sneak peek, deep inside the tunnel, roughly 175 feet.

She met up with Department of Environment Protection Commissioner Rohit Aggarwala right in the middle of this massive site.

It's the city's most expensive water project ever, carrying a price tag of roughly $6 billion.

"We're making an investment here that isn't about the next 10 years, it's about the next 100 to 200 years," Aggarwala said.

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Construction began in 1970 as a way to carry water from reservoirs in upstate New York to the city.

So-called tunnel number 1 was finished in 1917. Number 2 was completed in 1936.

Now, one of two shafts, deep below where Kemberly Richardson stood, will lead to tunnel number 3.

It's a crucial component. Think of it as backup for tunnels one and two.

"They are very stable, but it is good practice when you think of something this important to have full redundancy," Aggarwala said.

Mayor Eric Adams recently took a look around the gaping hole which will eventually be filled with, among other things, concrete and pipes.

"Pipes to actually bring that water up to pipes and pumps to connect to the water mains at the surface that distribute it out to water mains on the street and into your neighborhoods," Aggarwala said.

The work here will continue. Crews will blast down another roughly 600 feet. At that point, the shift will narrow to about 20 feet wide and connect to tunnel 3.

The commissioner tells Kemberly Richardson that there is light at the end of this tunnel.

Everything is expected to be fully operational in 2032.

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