JEFFERSON PARK — Drivers will get an early Christmas present with the reopening of Lawrence Avenue set for Dec. 24 as the first phase of a project to replace a 100-year-old sewer wraps up.
Crews have been working since August to tunnel under Lawrence Avenue to replace the crumbling sewer, which has flooded area basements during strong storms — at times using explosives to blast their way through 200 feet of bedrock to get the job done.
The $20 million project has snarled traffic throughout Jefferson Park by closing eastbound Lawrence Avenue from the Kennedy Expressway to Cicero Avenue to install approximately 2,670 feet of new sewer pipes from the Kennedy Expy. to Lavergne Avenue along Lawrence Avenue.
Although Lawrence had been expected to reopen at the end of November, a concrete shortage as well as incorrect records delayed the project for nearly a month, said Ald. John Arena (45th).
Work crews discovered that a local sewer that needed to be moved was at least a foot wider than indicated, prompting plans to be changed, Arena said.
Drivers should follow detour signs south on Milwaukee Avenue, east on Montrose Avenue and north on Cicero Avenue.
To dig beneath the bedrock, crews are using controlled charges once a day to dig the final 270 feet to connect the new sewer to the city’s Deep Tunnel, officials said.
A second deep shaft is being dug at Avondale and Lavergne avenues as part of the next phase of the project. No explosives will be used in that location, Arena said.
That intersection — often used by residents as a way to avoid perpetually congested Cicero Avenue — will be closed for several months, Arena said.
The new sewer system will have a greater capacity than the existing system, and “the area will experience better drainage and reduced flooding during heavy rains,” city officials said.