The Robertson Umbenhauer Water Treatment Plant, also referred to as the Canal Water Treatment, is over 75 years old and is located in Downtown El Paso. The plant is located between the Rio Grande River and the BNSF railyard. The railyard has been there for over 100 years making any infrastructure improvements near the plant very challenging. To address the aging infrastructure, El Paso Water wanted to replace existing transmission lines from the plant and build a new pump station.

Any pipeline route from the plant required crossing the BNSF railyard and Paisano Drive, a busy TxDOT controlled roadway. To mitigate risk, El Paso Water elected to use a design-build delivery method on this project. The project required a 66-inch-diameter, 570-foot-long tunnel under 18 active tracks of the railyard. It also requires a second 315-foot-tunnel across a busy TxDOT roadway. Tunneling was completed using an Akkerman tunnel boring machine. BRH Garver was the prime contractor and the design/build partner on this project.

To facilitate the construction of both tunnels, a single large entry shaft was constructed within the railyard. This required frequent contact with railroad personnel to coordinate access, safety requirements and storing material and equipment. The project team also had to work creatively to implement and maintain a settlement monitoring plan within the railyard. Excavation within the railyard had its complexities because the yard had several abandoned pipelines mixed with active pipelines that had been installed over the yard’s 100-year life. In addition to these challenges, the Border West Highway project by TxDOT had overlapping traffic control with this project.

Time Lapse: “Robbie” the Tunnel Boring Machine from Parkhill on Vimeo.