Massive Tunnel Progresses Largely Unnoticed

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One of the major projects in Omaha’s sewer separation project is currently under way. Crews are busy replacing a massive tunnel that has moved water to the wastewater treatment plant for more than 50 years.

While it sounds like a huge undertaking, the general public won’t even notice.

The goal is to put clean water into the Missouri River and the crews are working underground on the first of three tunnels being built to move water and sewage to the treatment plant.

Project leader Scott Aurit said, “After we get this first tunnel completed for about 750 feet we're gonna take the machine on the other side of the railroad track, bring it back here, drop it down and from this location we’re going to tunnel to the north side of Heartland of America Park. There’s a shaft at that location and that will complete all of the tunneling."

The old system is more than 50 years old. The team is using a tunnel-boring machine to dig a new system. The machine moves along at 30 to 40 feet per day – work that’s all part of an unfunded federal mandate.

Aurit said, “The north segment of this portion of the tunnel project is approximately $21 million."

Most of the tunnel being built will run 70 feet underground and under the radar for most people in the area.

Aurit said they’re, “minimizing the environmental impact as we're directing the work, as we're tunneling underneath a large portion of East Omaha as part of the project and the general public will not see most of this work other than the shaft at the far end of Heartland of America Park.”

Officials say they hope to have that project finished by the fall of next year.