Water-Level, Velocity, and Dye Measurements in the Chicago Tunnels

by K. A. Oberg, U.S Geological Survey, Urbana, United States,
A. R. Schmidt, U.S Geological Survey, Urbana, United States,

Document Type: Proceeding Paper

Part of: Hydraulic Engineering


On April 13, 1992, a section of a 100-year-old underground freight tunnel in downtown Chicago, Illinois was breached where the tunnel crosses under the Chicago River, about 15 meters below land surface. The breach allowed water from the Chicago River to flow into the freight tunnels and into buildings connected to the tunnels. As a result, utility services to more than 100 buildings in downtown Chicago were lost, several hundred thousand workers were sent home, and the entire subway system and a major expressway in the Loop were shut down. The breach in the tunnel was sealed and the tunnel dewatered by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) and its contractors. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) assisted the Corps in their efforts to plug and dewater the freight tunnels and connected buildings. This assistance included the installation and operation of telemetered gages for monitoring water levels in the tunnel system and velocity measurements made in the vicinity of the tunnel breach. A fluorescent dye tracer was used to check for leaks in the plugs, which isolated the damaged portion of the Chicago freight tunnel from the remainder of the tunnel system.

Subject Headings: Tunnels | Water level | Fluid velocity | Dyes | Flow measurement | Water tunnels | Freight transportation | Buildings | Illinois | United States | Chicago

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