Milestone reached with 2.2-mile underground sewer tunnel completion in Old Town

After 16 months of digging, Hazel the tunnel-boring machine can rest.

Alexandria’s massive RiverRenew Tunnel Program reached a critical milestone on Wednesday with the completion of a 2.2-mile underground tunnel that will divert millions of gallons of raw sewage from flowing into the Potomac River every year.

The $454.4 million program is the largest infrastructure development in Alexandria history and will replace Old Town’s 19th century combined sewer system with a tunnel system, sewer infrastructure and improvements that run their way from Old Town to AlexRenew’s wastewater treatment plant (1500 Eisenhower Avenue).

Mayor Justin Wilson tweeted that it’s a “critical and exciting milestone.”

This doesn’t mean that the project is finished. The deadline was pushed back a year, to 2026, by the Virginia General Assembly due to supply chain issues caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine.

AlexRenew now has to build a pumping station with shafts capable of pumping 20 million gallons per day and 180 million gallons per day.

“That’s a lot of electrical components, mechanical components, pumps, valves, that type of equipment,” AlexRenew CEO Justin Carl told ALXnow in a previous interview. “So we want to make sure that we’re accounting for the potential for having delays procuring that equipment as well when we build that pumping station, because we don’t want to have to go back to the GA (General Assembly) a second time to ask for an additional extension.”