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Hartselle tunnel under I-65 on schedule

By Deangelo McDaniel · 340-2469

HARTSELLE — Most motorists traveling Interstate 65 near Alabama 36 probably are not aware workers are beneath them removing 360 tons of dirt one scoop at a time.

City leaders call it progress.

After almost a year of planning, an Alabama-based company is boring a tunnel under I-65. It will carry sewer to the east side of the interstate.

The 60-inch tunnel will be 405 feet long. It is between eight feet and 18 feet below the interstate.

“It’s a very tedious process, but this is how they have to do it,” said Jeff Johnson of the Department of Development.

Johnson, who went inside the tunnel, said workers remove about four feet of dirt before installing a two-foot steel reinforced section of the tunnel.

The dirt is carried out on a trolley similar to the way miners removed coal before conveyer systems.

“So far, most of the dirt has been fill dirt from when the interstate was built,” Johnson said.

Tunco of Hokes Bluff is constructing the tunnel. The project, after getting a late start because of pending permits, is on schedule, Mayor Dwight Tankersley said.

“We expect them to be done by the end of the year,” Tankersley said.

The primary purpose of the infrastructure improvements is to serve 18.8 acres of city-owned property near I-65 and Alabama 36.

Helping development

City leaders said developers have shied away from the property because it does not have sewer.

Aronov Realty, a Montgomery-based company that has completed and has ongoing projects in North Alabama, has signed a $2.2 million option for the property.

The development and management company was established in 1952 and has used Publix to anchor most of its developments.

The contract with Aronov is for 330 days, with an option to extend the contract for 90 days, provided the company makes a $10,000 non-refundable deposit.

Tankersley said he doesn’t know of any development planned. But, without the infrastructure improvements, Aronov wouldn’t have signed the contract.

“The first thing is getting sewer over there,” the mayor said.

To get to this point, Hartselle employed a seldom-used provision in the public works bid law that allows governmental entities to reject bids and negotiate a forced account.

This process essentially allows the city to hire the low bidder to work for Hartselle.

The council opted for this after the low bid was more than $1 million above the city’s budget. The scope of the project was reduced from $1.6 million to about $835,000. Hartselle Utilities is absorbing part of the cost because HU is running a gas and water line through the tunnel.

In addition to commercial growth in the area, John Dumas is developing Heritage Heights, an 89-unit single-family residential project near Alabama 36 and East Byrd Road.

Dumas opted against using septic systems when Hartselle announced it was bringing sewer to the area.

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