Old, live water main, flooding cause trouble for downtown improvement project crews
By Alex Bridges
WINCHESTER -- Work on a major utility upgrade for the city remains on track despite a recent snag, an official said this week.
The Downtown Utility Infrastructure Improvement Project is under contract to be completed by the end of October, and work likely will meet that deadline, according to Perry Eisenach, director of public utilities for Winchester.
"Everything is still on schedule," Eisenach said early this week.
Construction began in May on the $12 million project to install new sewer and water lines on Braddock, Cameron and Piccadilly streets, and replace curbs, gutters, sidewalks and storm drains.
Removing old pipes in Winchester often means running into surprises, as workers with the contractor, Hillsville-based DLB, found out recently.
"Basically we discovered that there was a water main in there, a real old one, that we weren't aware exactly where it was, and when we were in the intersection of Braddock and Cork trying to shut off the old main, it was still live," Eisenach said.
Workers ended up having to dig up parts of Cork Street at South Loudoun Street, included in the ongoing Northeast Infrastructure Improvement Project. Construction of that project, which also included replacing aging water and sewer lines, has moved forward to Berryville Avenue.
The added work shouldn't affect the project schedule or cost, Eisenach said.
The paving of Cork Street for the Northeast Infrastructure Improvement Project remains incomplete until the contractor finishes work on Berryville Avenue, Eisenach said. Workers only applied the initial coat of asphalt after they had replaced utility lines, and left nearly 3 to 4 feet on either side of the street unpaved.
Sidewalk improvements at Cork and Loudoun streets had to wait until workers installed new traffic signals at the intersection as part of another city project.
The city water system still contains pipes dating back 100 years or more.
"The situation is here in the old part of town we don't have paper records of where everything is because it's so old," Eisenach said. "It's just one of those situations where we didn't know it was there, so now we're having to deal with it."
The Loudoun Street Pedestrian Mall faced another situation last week -- flooding -- when a storm swept across the area. The sudden deluge caused large amounts of stormwater to flow down Braddock and Cameron streets, where crews had not yet finished installing gutters and drains, then down Piccadilly toward North Loudoun Street.
Some flooding occurred because the storm drains could not handle that much water, Eisenach said. He said he had not yet heard any reports of flooding in downtown businesses.
Workers had not installed all the storm drains, Eisenach said. When they complete the work, the new drains should help curb flooding. However, the new drains may not have made a difference during last week's storm, he said.
At the same time crews replace sewer and water pipes, workers also continue to upgrade the downtown's traffic signals.
However, a black box approximately 3 feet high will be moved from where it sits at North Loudoun and Piccadilly streets in front of Virginia National Bank.
"We received several concerns about the aesthetics of having that box on the walking mall, that's why we're moving it," Eisenach said.
The box will be installed on the western side of the street near the Wachovia bank parking lot, about a half block north of its current location, he said.