Construction to begin for water reservoir project on Northwestern campus


Daily file photo by Noah Frick-Alofs

The Evanston Water Plant, 555 Lincoln St. The City Council discussed making replacing lead water pipes more affordable after only 7 percent of applicable residents took advantage of the program.

Maddy Daum, Assistant City Editor

Evanston will begin construction for a new water reservoir this month to ensure reliable drinking water for 400,000 people.

The reservoir is located at the corner of Lincoln Street and Campus Drive. Five years ago, the concrete slab that covered the reservoir had deteriorated so much that it was impossible to sustain water storage, Lara Biggs, Evanston’s engineering and capital planning bureau chief, said. The top of the reservoir currently serves as a parking lot.

Biggs completed a cost analysis and concluded that replacing the entire reservoir was more cost effective than just fixing the top. Evanston awarded the project funding in November and the city received a low-interest loan from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, Biggs said.

The city designated $19.6 million to the project and will take 20 months to complete, Biggs said. The construction will restrict Campus Drive to only one lane of traffic through the stoplight at a time.

Demolition work like digging and jackhammering is supposed to begin by mid-February and there will be heavy construction vehicles around the area, according to a Jan. 25 memo from Northwestern facilities. The top of the reservoir will no longer be a parking lot and will instead be converted into a green space for NU.

“Of course it is on Northwestern’s property and so this required a lot of coordination with Northwestern,” Biggs said. “We’ve been really fortunate because the facilities group at Northwestern that we’ve had to work with has been so good and really understanding of our challenges.”

City manager Wally Bobkiewicz said now that the 560 Lincoln and the Ryan Fieldhouse construction projects are both complete, it is the best time for this project.

“We’ve worked very closely with the University on staging and timing and issues not only shoring the existing tank during the University’s construction … (but also) to coordinate the design around the work that has been done around those two buildings,” Bobkiewicz said.

Biggs said the city’s water treatment facility currently supplies water to nine municipalities in the area and just entered into a contract with with Lincolnwood to supply water by the end of 2019. To continue serving these communities, the 84-year-old reservoir needs to be redone in order to match regulatory requirements, the memo said.

Biggs said that although the construction will be loud next to 560 Lincoln and will cause some redirection of pedestrians and bicyclists, she hopes to leave the area “safer than we found it.” The estimated life of the new concrete reservoir is 100 years, according to Biggs.

“This is a once in a lifetime or once in two lifetimes project,” Biggs said. “We just ask that people be patient with us … We know that the impact to Northwestern is very high but it really is critical to us to provide that safe, reliable drinking water.”

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