New Tunnel Boring Machine Worries Some Dallas Neighbors

Tunnel Construction to take four years.

Dallas City Leaders Tuesday celebrated the new boring machine which is ready to go to work on the long awaited Mill Creek Drainage Relief Tunnel.

The $300 million plan will connect with storm sewers in East Dallas and Uptown to solve flooding problems which have plagued those areas for many years.

The machine that bores a 30-foot-wide hole will be disassembled, lowered through shafts and reassembled to drill 70 to 100 feet underground on a 5-mile path.

It will remove 1.5 million cubic yards of rock -- up to 150,000 tandem dump truck loads.

Most residents will never know the work is happening beneath them.

"It will provide flood protection and infrastructure improvement with the latest technology and minor disruption for neighborhoods," Dallas City Council Member Lee Kleinman said.

The machine was assembled to be sure it would work. It sits beside the outflow shaft which has already been completed at White Rock Creek near Scyene Road.

Resident Frances Ramirez said the project has already disrupted her neighborhood.

"Our house just shakes every time they pass by here with those machines. They drill all night. My house shakes when they're drilling," she said.

Ramirez claimed heavy truck traffic and drilling for the tunnel access shaft damaged the home she and her husband recently remodeled and expanded with their retirement savings.

"We have a lot of memories here. We've been here like 43 years," she said.

City council members who autographed the drilling machine Tuesday said the contractor is required to take extra efforts to protect neighbors.

"I want to be sure that we aren't going to be hindering the opportunity for development in our district and for growth by just accruing a bunch of dirt and rock and debris that's going to impact the quality of life for the residents for District 7," Councilman Adam Bazaldua said. "I let them know that I'm going to be holding their feet to the fire."

For the next several months, with limited hours, the side street in front of the Ramirez house will be the sole path for trucks hauling rock from the tunnel.

Then, once the tunnel is dug some distance from the starting point, the rock removal will move to another access shaft on a larger site along Scyene Road. That spot, away from homes, has more room for trucks and around the clock operation.

"It will be about 12 to 18 months of actual tunnel excavation. During that time we'll be continuously hauling material out," project manager Nick Jencopale said.

City officials offered to buy the homes of residents who live closest to the project.

"We appraised them and we offered what it was appraised at, plus relocation benefits if they qualified," said senior engineer J. Milton Brooks with Dallas Stormwater Management.

Ramirez said her family rejected the offer.

"The little bit of money they were going to give us wouldn't buy us a house like we have right now," she said.

Instead, Ramirez wants the city to repair the damage she claims it caused to her home.

"We're not money hungry. We want our home the way we had it, the way we built it," Ramirez said.

City officials insist the end result of the Mill Creek Drainage Relief Tunnel will be good for everyone.

"Ultimately I'm trying to look at the positive," Bazaldua said. "I think overall this project is going to bring far more value to the residents of Dallas than it is going to be a hindrance or a burden."

It will take four more years to complete the project that was delayed for several years over a bidding controversy.

"We're doing what we can to reduce the sound, reduce their impact to the neighborhood from this job site," Brooks said.

Severe floods like the one that made the Baylor Medical Center an unreachable island in 2006, demonstrated the need for the project over the years.

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