On April 13, 1992, water from the Chicago River poured into a breach in the 63 mile freight tunnel system that crisscrosses underneath the heart of the City of Chicago. That Monday morning the Chicago River started pouring into the tunnel system through bridge pilings driven into the tunnel near the Kinzie Street Bridge. A 20 foot wide hole broke into the roof of a tunnel 20 feet below the river bed and 50 feet below street level. More than 200 million gallons of water quickly began flooding the basements and electrical controls of over 300 buildings throughout the downtown area. An estimated 1.3 million people were evacuated from Chicago’s loop that morning. Chicago came to a standstill- the financial markets, the commodities markets, the banks and all major businesses were closed.
Kenny Construction received the call from the City of Chicago and John Kenny, Jr. went to the site to determine the extent of the damage. After surveying the damage Mayor Richard M. Daley immediately requested John and Kenny Construction to lead the repair efforts working hand-in-hand with the City Police, Fire, Public Works and Emergency Services and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Federal Emergency Management Authority.
The leak was then sealed by drilling 8 shafts into the flooded tunnel near Kinzie Street and placing emergency plugs in the tunnel. Kenny crews then installed a system of flood control doors to stop the leakage and isolate any future floods. Finally a massive pumping system was operated for several weeks to finally drain the flooded tunnels.
This project was especially challenging as all work was performed under a 24 hour a-day media frenzy. The successful completion of the crisis known as the “Great Chicago Flood” earned Kenny Construction Company several national awards including the AGC Build America Award for Outstanding Achievement in Construction and the Engineering News Record Medal of Excellence.