Purpose driven

How our latest tunnel project is an anniversary-year story of team strength, soft ground, and public service.

Peering down the concrete-lined access shaft into the depths of the Shoreline Storage Tunnel under construction. Photo by Nicole Harvel.

A sunny May morning made for a wonderful start to Infrastructure Week, celebrated with a visit to our Shoreline Storage Tunnel on Cleveland’s east side. Large Tunnel Construction Manager Robert Auber led a tour at the main mining site of our first-ever “soft-ground” tunnel project.

The Shoreline Storage Tunnel will be 23 feet wide and about 14,000 feet long, preventing a whopping 350 million gallons of combined sewer overflow from reaching Lake Erie when complete, just another way we’re keeping our Great Lake great.

“The tunnel boring machine will be delivered here in pieces and parts later this summer,” including the cutter head which arrived on site earlier this month, said Auber. His crew is hoping to start mining sometime in October.

Large-Tunnel Construction Manager Bob Auber on site during Shoreline Storage Tunnel construction. Photo by Nicole Harvel.

What makes this project unique compared to our tunnels to date? Soft ground.

The tunnel boring machine that will dig its three-mile journey will be just one of several project components that differ this time around. In hard rock tunnels, crews dig what’s called a “starter tunnel” underground — up to 300 feet long — within which the tunnel boring machine and its trailing gear is fully assembled before mining begins. But in soil tunnels, the TBM is only partially assembled, and only after mining begins are additional pieces of the machine added as it advances. The Shoreline TBM will be 380 feet long when it’s all put together.

The cutter head of the Shoreline Storage Tunnel tunnel boring machine arrives at the Port of Cleveland June 6. Photo posted by William Friedman on Twitter.

Auber added that since this is our first soft-ground tunnel, they will have to monitor the progress differently than with our rock tunnels due to potential ground settling.

Auber believes the Shoreline Storage Tunnel will be a great learning experience for our next soft-ground project. Construction will continue through 2025.

Shoreline is the fifth of seven Project Clean Lake tunnels being constructed as a part of Project Clean Lake, our 25-year $3 billion program to drastically reduce the amount of combined sewage entering local waterways.

Our first three tunnels, now complete and online, have all been completed under budget: the Doan Valley Tunnel (2021), the Euclid Creek Tunnel (2017) and Dugway Storage Tunnel (2020) finished $5 million, $3.6 million and $4.6 million under budget respectively. Shoreline joins the Westerly Storage Tunnel as the second of two tunnels currently under construction.

Over more than 10 years of work, Project Clean Lake has taken significant strides improving water quality. Here are some of the notable numbers:


The number of projects completed or active as of June 2022.

1.7 billion

Annual gallons of combined sewer overflow reduction realized.

$1.78 billion

Total invested in Project Clean Lake to date.

$505 million

Total value engineering savings realized. Design modifications and system optimization has helped us to meet Project Clean Lake metrics at a lower cost at various stages of work to date.

Shoreline Storage Tunnel access shaft as seen from the surface. Photo by Nicole Harvel.

Transforming our Great Lake

In celebration of our 50th anniversary, throughout 2022 we’re unveiling six commemorative seals that reflect how our work has impacted our region.

June’s seal celebrates the work it takes to protect our lake and streams from the threats of pollution. A combination of ingenuity, technology, and dedication over the last 50 years has led to a complex network of deep tunnels that prevent pollution and guard our clean-water future. That’s a hero story.

Superhero figures capture values that inspire us and give us hope. In the real world, and especially in our work, infrastructure is the real marvel on many levels.

This month’s seal features our tunnel-hungry borebot, a creative representation of the tunnel-boring-machine work it takes to protect and defend our water resources.

Story by Nicole Harvel and John Gonzalez. Learn more about our 50th anniversary year at https://www.neorsd.org/50



Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District

Official Medium channel of the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District in Cleveland, OH