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"MamaJo" Reaches Foster Park After Three-Year, Five-Mile Journey

Rebecca Green

Just under three years since Fort Wayne’s city utilities department began a five-mile dig to significantly decrease the city’s combined sewage overflows, MamaJo has completed her journey.

“MamaJo” is the 20-foot long, 400-foot wide tunnel boring machine Fort Wayne rented to assist with its deep rock tunnel project that’s part of a larger consent decree to clean up the city’s rivers by 2025.

MamaJo began her dig in late 2018, following a naming contest held by the city in the months ahead of it. Her arrival at Foster Park marks the completion of her three-year, five-mile journey through the Fort Wayne underground.

Mayor Tom Henry says other mayors expressed skepticism that a city of Fort Wayne’s size could complete a project of such a magnitude.

Credit Rebecca Green / WBOI News
Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry announced the completion of MamaJo's journey to Foster Park.

“Right now, for instance, Indianapolis is going through this project. Cincinnati just finished. Cleveland is looking at it,” said Henry. “These cities are much larger than us, yet not only did we attempt it, but we completed it, in record time.”

Indeed, MamaJo’s dig was expected to be completed by “late-2021,” so Wednesday’s announcement was ahead of schedule.

The completion of MamaJo’s journey is merely the end of one portion of the project; the entire combined sewer overflow fixes began as far back as 2008. Now, crew members will have to disassemble the machine before moving on to the next steps.

Matthew Wirtz is the City of Fort Wayne’s chief engineer.

“We have the deep water and pump station, we have consolidation sewer, more traditional sewer work, and we need to head south yet through Foster Park in the coming years to complete all of our overflow connections,” Wirtz said.

The city was giving away shirts to commemorate the completion of the dig, as well as rocks from the underground.

City officials say they are still committed to and confident in meeting all of the consent decree’s requirements by the 2025 deadline.

Credit FILE PHOTO: Rebecca Green / WBOI News
The beginning of the tunnel is just east of South Anthony Boulevard, and work began on the project in late 2018.

Zach joined 89.1 WBOI as a reporter and local host for All Things Considered, and hosted Morning Edition for the past few years. In 2022, he was promoted to Content Director.
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