Waterway Protection Tunnel An Innovative Solution

Ground breaking
January 26, 2018

The January 10 groundbreaking to the Waterway Protection Tunnel at 200 North 12th Street brought city officials and local stakeholders together to kick off a massive and innovative undertaking that will help maintain safe, clean waterways for Louisville and Jefferson County. The $200 million, 2.5-mile tunnel will be 18 stories underground and able to store up to 37 million gallons of combined rainwater and sewage. It is scheduled to be completed by December 31, 2020.

“It will allow us to capture approximately 22 individual combined sewer overflows along that currently flow into Beargrass Creek and the Ohio River,” said MSD Executive Director Tony Parrott. “With this project, we will be able to keep approximately 350 million gallons of combined sewer overflow out of our local waterways (in a typical rainfall year).”

Civic leaders and community members praised the project, which had been originally envisioned as three separate combined sewer overflow basins. Louisville Mayor Greg Fisher called the tunnel “a major, cool project,” citing MSD’s efforts to engineer the project to minimize interruption to the city. “This project is one engineers from all over the world will be watching.” 

District 4 Councilwoman Barbara Sexton Smith said the tunnel represented “a great example of leadership,” and points toward strong organizational problem-solving. District 9 Councilman Bill Hollander added that the project will pay dividends toward public health and safety. “A clean Beargrass Creek can be a great benefit to this community,” he said.

Copper and Kings American Brandy founder and CEO Joe Heron emphasized that MSD addressing the overflow issue through an underground tunnel rather than a series of basins showed the commitment to keeping Louisville vital. The tunnel is “a manifestation of what makes great cities,” Heron said. “We should discuss MSD as an asset for the city.”

MSD’s work will also open up 22 acres that Deputy Director of Waterfront Development Corp. Deborah Bilitski said will begin Phase 4 of development for Waterfront Park. 

District 5 Councilwoman Cheri Bryant Hamilton said the tunnel points toward great possibilities for the city. “We look forward to what will be coming in the future,” she said.