Archives of the Mayor's Press Office

Date: Thursday, August 13, 1998

Release #389-98

Contact: Colleen Roche (212) 788-2958
Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) (718) 595-6600

Also see the Mayor's Message on this subject


To mark the completion of the first stage of the largest capital construction project in New York City's history, Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Joel A. Miele Sr., P.E. today announced the activation of City Water Tunnel No. 3. Not since 1936 -- when City Tunnel No. 2 was activated -- has a project of such physical and historical magnitude been inaugurated in New York City.

In a ceremony held at the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir in Central Park, Mayor Giuliani said, "City Water Tunnel No. 3 is one of the most complex and intricate engineering projects in the world today. The size and length of the tunnel, its sophisticated controls, and the depth of excavation, represent state-of-the-art tunnel construction and will provide a great service to all New Yorkers. City Tunnel No. 3 will ensure the reliability of the finest water supply system in the world well into the next millennium."

The Mayor added, "Such immense construction would not have been possible without the creativity and dedication of New York City engineers, some of whom have spent their entire careers working on this project. This remarkable achievement is a tribute to the individuals who risked their lives and who lost their lives in accidents during its construction.

"The activation of City Water Tunnel No. 3 marks the culmination of a century of strategic water planning in New York City. It represents our gift to the next millennium just as the existing two tunnels -- engineering marvels in their own right -- were the gifts from the forward-thinking planners and engineers of the City's past. I want to thank those gathered here today, and those who lost their lives, for their commitment and hard work which made possible this addition to the City's water distribution system," Mayor Giuliani concluded.

"The high quality and superior flavor of New York City's water are world renowned," Commissioner Miele commented. "The City's three upstate reservoir systems provide nearly 1.3 billion gallons of water each day through a complex network of pipes, aqueducts and tunnels. City Tunnel No. 3 will enhance this outstanding delivery system, providing added service reliability for the more than 8 million people who live and work in the City of New York."

In honor of the 24 underground construction workers -- known as Sandhogs -- operating engineers and DEP employees who lost their lives constructing the Tunnel, the Mayor read each name and date of passing while a fellow Sandhog tolled a bell. In addition, a ceremonial plaque bearing the names of the individuals was unveiled, a representation of the permanent bronze plaque that will be mounted on the outside of the Reservoir's South Gatehouse in Central Park. The Mayor then activated City Water Tunnel No. 3 and the Reservoir fountain with a key presented to him by Commissioner Miele.

The activated portion of City Tunnel No. 3, constructed in bedrock 250 to 800 feet below the surface, runs 13 miles and begins at Hillview Reservoir in Yonkers. It extends across Central Park until about Fifth Avenue and 78th Street and stretches eastward under the East River and Roosevelt Island into Astoria, Queens. This first stage of the tunnel cost $1 billion to construct. It consists of a 24-foot diameter concrete-lined pressure tunnel that steps down in diameter to 20 feet. Water travels along this route and rises from the tunnel via 14 supply shafts, or "risers," and feeds into the City's water distribution system. Currently, City Tunnel No. 3 is serving the Upper East and Upper West Sides of Manhattan, Roosevelt Island, and many neighborhoods in the Bronx west of the Bronx River.

There are four unique valve chambers that will allow Stage 1 to connect to future portions of the tunnel without disrupting the flow of water service. Each valve chamber contains a series of 96-inch diameter conduits with valves and flowmeters to direct, control and measure the flow of water in sections of the tunnel. The largest of the valve chambers is in Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx. Built 250 feet below the surface, it will control the daily flow of water from the Catskill and Delaware water supply systems into Tunnel No. 3. These systems provide 90% of the City's drinking water.

The remaining stages of City Tunnel No. 3 are expected to be complete in 2020. Stage 2 is comprised of a two-leg Brooklyn/Queens section and a section in Manhattan. It is scheduled to be completed in 2008 at an approximate cost of $1 billion. The combination of Stages 1 and 2 will provide the system with the ability to bypass one or both of City Tunnels No. 1 or 2. The operation of the new tunnel will allow for inspection and any needed repairs to City Tunnels No. 1 or 2 for the first time since they were put into operation in 1917 and 1936, respectively.

Stage 3 involves the construction of a 16-mile long section extending from the Van Cortlandt Park Valve Chamber to the Kensico Reservoir, which contains water from the Catskill and Delaware Systems. When Stage 3 is completed, City Tunnel No. 3 will operate at greater pressure, induced by the high elevation of Kensico Reservoir. It will also provide an additional aqueduct to supply water to the City that will parallel the Delaware and Catskill Aqueducts. Stage 4 will be 14 miles long and will travel from Van Cortlandt Park under the East River and into Flushing, Queens.

Construction of the remaining three stages of City Tunnel No. 3 is being accelerated by the use of a mechanical rock excavator called a tunnel-boring machine (TBM). This machine, which is lowered in sections and assembled on the tunnel floor, chips off sections of bedrock through the continuous rotation of a series of steel cutting teeth. The TBM replaces conventional drilling and blasting methods used during the construction of Stage 1 and allows for faster and safer excavation.

City Tunnel No. 3, when complete, is projected to cost between $5.5 billion and $6 billion dollars. Tunnel No. 3 is part of the City's Capital Improvement Program (CIP), which provides for the rebuilding of the City's infrastructure. The CIP projects expenditures in the next 10 years of $8.61 billion for water and sewer facility improvements. This program is financed through the sale of water bonds and the collection of water and sewer charges. There are approximately 820,000 water and sewer accounts in New York City. The average annual cost for a single family metered residence, $430, ranks among the lowest of the nation's cities.

Two afternoon and evening events complete today's program. New Yorkers will celebrate the opening of City Water Tunnel No. 3 by running in a 4-mile race around Central Park's Middle Loop, a race sponsored by the City and the New York Road Runners Club. In addition, Jupiter Symphony will perform Handel's Water Mucis as colorful fireworks grace the skies over the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir. The concert will be performed against the backdrop of the illuminated fountain in the Reservoir, a visible symbol of City Tunnel No. 3.

For additional information on the history and development of Tunnel No. 3, please refer to DEP's website at In addition, an interactive disc is available by calling DEP at (718) 595-6600.

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