Eleven years after construction began, Mexico City’s massive new drainage tunnel is finished, the head of the National Water Commission (Conagua) announced.
Speaking at yesterday’s presidential press conference, Blanca Jiménez Cisneros said that the Eastern Emission Tunnel (TEO) was in fact completed six weeks ago but hasn’t yet been put into operation.
“With the rain there has been [this year], its operation hasn’t yet been needed,” she said, explaining that existing drainage has been able to cope on its own so far this rainy season.
However, Jiménez predicted that the tunnel will function for the first time before the end of this week.
The Conagua chief said the companies that built the tunnel will be fined because they failed to complete the project on time.
Jiménez added that the total cost of the TEO, designed to help to reduce flooding in Mexico City, increased to 30 billion pesos (US $1.5 billion) from an original estimate of 15 billion pesos due to a lack of planning.
“It cost a lot more than the initial estimate. It started without an appropriate plan, without a complete plan . . .” she said.
Jiménez said the project faced delays because the tunneling machine, which she described as an “enormous seven-meter-diameter drill,” had to be repaired on occasions after sustaining damage due to encounters with rocks.
On one occasion, the machine was stuck underground for six months and had to be removed in pieces, she said.
The 62-kilometer-long mega-tunnel runs from the Remedios river in the northeast of the Mexico City metropolitan area to the Atotonilco water treatment plant in the state of Hidalgo.
It has been described as the world’s largest sewer project and was designed to significantly increase the capital’s capacity to drain storm and wastewater.
Jiménez said she offered to take President López Obrador on a tour of the tunnel but he declined.
“It would be a really cool visit; the only thing is the president hasn’t wanted to go.”