Northwest Side Relief Sewer


Courtesy of Black & Veatch Corporation

Meticulous planning, design and construction management went into devising reliable solutions for this award-winning tunnel project that alleviated persistent flooding and improved the community's water quality.

Like many U.S. cities, Milwaukee faced a serious and growing problem. Population growth and urban development had produced ever-increasing volumes of wastewater and stormwater. Aging and undersized infrastructure was woefully inadequate to handle the increase, resulting in sewer overflows and basement backups during wet weather.

In 1998, the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District called on Black & Veatch to formulate a long-range proposal and the Northwest Side Relief Sewer became the number-one priority Capital Improvement Project in the District's 2010 Facilities Plan.

Over seven years, Black & Veatch engineers planned, designed and constructed the impressive structure, which serves seven northwestern Milwaukee County communities. It took more than a year and a tunnel boring machine powerful enough to cut a 22-foot diameter tunnel through 7.1 miles of bedrock. Thousands of truckloads of concrete were poured to complete this massive project.

The project demonstrates important strategies to confront capital-intensive sewer overflow challenges. The large-scale, multi-functional tunnel 190 feet below ground both transports and stores wastewater, reducing the need for additional wastewater storage facilities. The Black & Veatch design made shrewd use of the existing infrastructure and features a carefully considered design that enables the community to prosper through future growth and development.

Black & Veatch's advanced risk management techniques were critical to success in this large-scale underground construction project. The multidisciplinary team achieved on-schedule, under-budget performance with no significant disputes or delays despite the many risks inherent in a tunnel of this magnitude.

Today, quietly and out-of-sight, the Northwest Side Relief Sewer is producing notable results for Metropolitan Milwaukee Sewerage District and Milwaukee. With a look to the future, Black & Veatch continues Building a World of Difference with an APWA award-winning design that guarantees operational simplicity, minimal maintenance and a better quality of life for this community.

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