There's 180 years worth of underground utility lines beneath Chicago ranging from old wooden water pipes to new communications lines, but until now there hasn't been a reliable cumulative location map of what was built in 1837 or installed yesterday.
Contractors armed with the limited locating documentation available currently still have to be on their toes because they've learned to expect the unexpected when they dig under the city - such as in 1992 when workers punched a hole in a tunnel located under the Chicago River, causing basements in The Loop to flood with up to 40-feet of water.
Working with HBK Engineering, image analysis startup Reconstruct, software maker Cityzenith, and U+I Labs, the city has begun what will likely be a five-year effort to map the underground pipeline network of sewer, water, electricity, gas, broadband and other services in its downtown area.
The result of their efforts will be a multi-dimensional database that will serve as the foundation for realtime mapping of all the services - long forgotten and the very new - that rest beneath Chicago.
CNET.com's article Chicago Maps Its Underground Maze details how the Windy City is fast becoming a Smart City.