Downtown facing big water-line project

Nov. 09, 2013 @ 10:43 PM

Get ready, downtown, another public infrastructure upgrade is on the way that’ll bring with it construction that residents and business patrons must work around.

The Water Management Department intends to replace nearly 2.3 miles of underground piping, starting sometime in the spring and likely continuing into the fall of 2015.

The project will target pipes left untouched during an earlier line upgrade, part of the city’s 2005 streetscape project, that placed new connections beneath most of the streets on the western and southern portions of downtown inside the loop.

The job now, say Engineering Supervisor Jerry Morrone and other Water Management officials, is to tackle lines beneath the northern section of the loop itself, plus the ones under Rigsbee Avenue and Mangum, Roxboro, Market, Foster, Holland, Orange and Church streets.

Morrone said the existing lines are the same sort of century-old, cast-iron, unlined pipes the department’s been replacing in other parts of the center city.

Replacing them is part of “staying ahead of the game” as properties redevelop and officials plan for initiatives like the potential restoration of two-way traffic on the loop, he told the City Council.

But Water Management acknowledges the project’s potential to cause disruption, and has begun consultations with Downtown Durham Inc., the Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce and other interests. More meetings, with bigger groups of players, are likely early in 2014.

Some of the smaller streets – Market and Orange, for example – may be closed to traffic when their turn comes. The bigger ones – the loop included – will see lane closures.

To minimize traffic disruptions, project managers may schedule some of the key work for nights and weekends.

But one problem, noise, is shaping up as an even bigger issue for managers to reckon with.

In many places, workers must carve a way through a foot or two of concrete that underlies the asphalt paving, Water Management Director Don Greeley said.

That’s normally a job for jackhammers, tools that inherently make more noise than city law theoretically allows.

The biggest potential source of noise-related conflict is along Mangum Street, where homes in some places are only about 200 feet away from likely work sites, Morrone said.

“I don’t know if we can completely comply with the noise ordinance or come up with another construction method,” he told council members. “It’s something we’re going to have to work with and make people aware of.”

Council members urged Greeley and his staff to let people know well in advance that work crews are coming their way, to give them time to prepare for any disruption to their normal routine.