Clogged grating at construction site contributed to University Circle flooding

CLEVELAND, Ohio –A large grate used to keep debris out of a tunnel at a construction site contributed to flooding in University Circle earlier this week, a spokeswoman for the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District said Wednesday.

Spokeswoman Jennifer Elting said the grating at the district’s Doan Valley construction site at Ambler Park became clogged with debris and caused flooding at the site.

The district is investigating what else may have contributed to the flooding and how to prevent flooding in the future. Other factors could have included the rain hitting already-saturated ground. 

Flooding caused by heavy and constant rain Sunday night also forced the closing of parts of Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd on Monday, leading to long backups for the morning commute. University Circle police had to help some people out of submerged cars, said Chief Jim Repicky. 

Contractors for the sewer district are boring a giant tunnel beneath University Circle to collect sewage and stormwater before it flows into Lake Erie.

The district will eventually create a 21-mile network of tunnels running under the city and inner-ring suburbs.

The grating covering the tunnel was clear on Friday at 11 p.m., Elting said. When asked whether people checked the rack over the weekend, Elting said she didn’t know. In the future, she said, the contractor will probably have someone watch it during predicted rain events. 

“It was a good learning experience for us,” she said.

District rain gauges showed 2.5 to 3.5 inches of rain fell on Sunday. 

Roads were reopened in University Circle by Monday afternoon. All the water at the construction side was pumped out of the tunnel. About 12 to 14 trucks of debris were removed from the tunnel. There’s no word of how much damage was done to the tunnel or machinery within the tunnel. 

Flooding could happen more often in the future, multiple scientific studies show. Scientists have determined precipitation is increasing, and falling more heavily in the Midwest overall. Read more here.

This story will be updated as gets more information.