News reporters given tour of Milwaukee's deep tunnel

The Deep Tunnel system. | Photo: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

News reporters given tour of Milwaukee's deep tunnel

By Matt Montgomery & John Mercure. CREATED Mar 21, 2012

MILWAUKEE- For the first time in 10 years workers are inspecting the deep tunnel.  And for the first time since it was completed 19 years ago, reporters are being allowed inside.  Newsradio 620 WTMJ's John Mercure was among them

According to John, above ground it looks like an oversized concrete manhole cover, but once the lid is lifted and our passenger basket begins to descend into the darkness it quickly becomes obvious how massive the deep tunnel really is.

MMSD executive director Kevin Schaeffer was the tour guide as the temperature dropped from 80 degrees above ground to 55 down below.

"It takes a minute and a half to get down there," said Schaeffer.  "The deep tunnel is like a huge bathtub.  It holds water until we can pump it out and treat it at Jones Island."

As John and other reporters headed near the tunnel floor, they heard the water and smell the deep tunnel's mission.

"We always have a little bit of water flowing below," said Schaeffer.

John said they landed in about six inches of water.  The tunnel has a 30 foot diameter; capable of holding 526 million gallons of water.

After ten minutes, our tour is over and the steel basket climbs back to the surface.  It takes two minutes.

It will take two months for inspectors to complete their inspection

Cleveland and st. Louis are currently modeling tunnel projects after Milwaukee's deep tunnel.