ALDOT begins Crescent Ridge demolition
Houses destroyed by the April 27, 2011, tornado are cleared along Crescent Ridge Road and Iris Drive in Holt on Friday
Michelle Lepianka Carter | Tuscaloosa News
By Stephanie Taylor
Published: Saturday, May 25, 2013 at 3:30 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, May 24, 2013 at 10:57 p.m.
|State removing homes damaged by 2011 tornado|
The Alabama Department of Transportation bought nearly 70 tracts of land that were in the path of the April 27, 2011, tornado that damaged large swaths of Tuscaloosa and eastern Tuscaloosa County. Nearly 30 damaged structures sat seemingly untouched for more than two years and became what nearby residents called eyesores and safety hazards.
ALDOT spent nearly $4 million to buy the property to make way for a proposed highway that would connect Interstate 20/59 to U.S. Highway 82 in Northport.
As recently as last week, trees still sat atop shells of houses that were missing roofs and walls. Stray animals and some people had made homes in the dilapidated structures. Open septic tanks were scattered about the area.
Crews started to demolish the structures on Tuesday. It should be about three months until all demolition is complete, said Dee Rowe, ALDOT 5th Division engineer.
Approximately 30 structures and approximately 37 properties with only foundations, mobile home pads or underground septic tanks and grease traps will be demolished, Rowe said.
ALDOT paid a contractor $192,993 to complete the job.
“It’s long overdue,” said Kevin Skelton, who lives with his wife and son near several of the damaged properties. He and his wife Judy were glad to see some action being taken this week, but they’re concerned about future upkeep.
“Yes, this takes care of the current issues, but what about the long haul?” Judy Skelton said. “They’re our neighbors now, and as a community, we want them to maintain their land the same way that we do. We’ve seen what they’ve done, or not done, in the past.”
An ALDOT engineer told The Tuscaloosa News in March that crews had inspected and maintained the properties.
“We never saw anyone out there. If they did inspect it, they did no follow up,” Kevin Skelton said.
Hurricane Creekkeeper John Wathen said he was glad to see the demolition underway, but he voiced concerns as well.
“I am still disappointed that it has taken years to complete what ALDOT has demonstrated only takes a few weeks when the job is done according to the laws every other citizen had to comply with much quicker,” he said. “ALDOT should never be allowed to hold themselves above those laws everyone else has to follow.”
Wathen, a longtime vocal opponent of the bypass, told The Tuscaloosa News in March that he suspected that property was being neglected in hopes that residents who stayed or rebuilt in the area would be encouraged to sell.
The proposed four-lane divided highway known as the Eastern Bypass was first proposed in 1988 and now carries an estimated $250 million price tag. There is no set date for the bypass construction because of uncertain funding, according to ALDOT. The proposed route crosses over the “M Bend” of Hurricane Creek, a popular part of the creek noted for rare wildlife and unique rock formations, and several residential areas, including the upscale growing Townes of North River neighborhood.
Judy Skelton suggested that residents of the Holt area would be better served by a new high school on the Crescent Ridge Road area property than a bypass.
Reach Stephanie Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org or 205-722-0210.