October 14, 2011

Mayor Emanuel and Department of Water Management Commissioner Tom Powers Highlight the Need for Investments in Chicago's Infrastructure

Upgrades Proposed in the Budget Will Protect Neighborhoods and Homes While Creating 18,000 Jobs

Mayor's Press Office    312.744.3334

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Department of Water Management (DWM) Commissioner Tom Powers highlighted the importance of investing in Chicago’s infrastructure, as well as steps outlined in the Emanuel Administration’s budget proposal that will create 18,000 jobs and bring the city’s water infrastructure into the 21st century. The Mayor and the Commissioner visited a construction site in the North Lawndale neighborhood where crews are installing 1,592 feet of sewer main to replace sewer pipes that date back to 1886.

“Investing in our infrastructure is critical to maintaining quality of life for people across the city by protecting our homes from flooding and our cars from sinkholes,” said Mayor Emanuel.  “Chicago is a world-class city that attracts global businesses, innovators from across the country, and families looking to build a life here – we must invest in our city to ensure we provide a solid foundation for our future.”

Currently, Chicago has significantly lower water and sewer rates than other large cities across the country and some of the oldest infrastructure in the nation. The Emanuel Administration’s budget proposal includes an increase in the rates for water and sewer services to invest in the city’s infrastructure and provide necessary upgrades to Chicago’s water and sewer system. Over the next ten years, the Mayor’s plan provides for replacing 900 miles of century-old water pipes and relining or replacing 750 miles of century-old sewer lines. The City currently replaces 32 miles of water mains and 11 miles of sewer mains each year; this plan will more than double that, installing approximately 88 miles of new water mains and 25 miles of sewer mains a year. 

This accelerated repair schedule will also create 18,000 jobs over 10 years. 

Chicago has some of the oldest water infrastructure in the country, much of which was built between 1890 and 1930.  DWM estimates that approximately 25 percent of water mains and more than 41 percent of sewer mains are more than 100 years old. 

As a result, the city spends more than $8 million in repairs for broken mains each year. 

In addition to replacements and repairs, the proposed increase in rates will allow DWM to undertake necessary improvements, including:

  • Increasing its efforts to line sewers from 40 miles to 49 miles a year. Lining sewers extends their life up to 50 years, at a quarter of the cost and none of the inconvenience of full excavation and replacement.
  • Lining 14,000 catch basins and structures annually for the next 10 years. This extends their lives and prevents the structural collapse seen in recent years on the sides of streets.
  • Repaving an average of 113 miles of streets each year after these projects are completed. 

Finally, the new rates will allow DWM to convert four of its 12 pumping stations from steam power to electricity, providing an annual savings of $7.5 million in maintenance, personnel and energy costs.

The site that Mayor Emanuel and Commissioner Powers visited today is undergoing its second project in under a year. Prior to this sewer installation, the City installed a new water main in S. Lawndale Avenue from W. Cermak Road to W. Ogden Avenue. As part of the project, 800 feet of new water main replaced old pipes that had been in place since 1885.