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Posted February 15, 2013 | comments Leave a comment

Strasburg prepares for utility work

Work will begin on the Streetscape Enhancement project after Mayfest

By Alex Bridges

Work to upgrade Strasburg's water and sewer lines downtown begins in two weeks.

Officials warn residents and business owners to expect delays, disruption and noise during the work on the Downtown Utilities and Streetscape Enhancement projects.

Work is scheduled to begin March 3 and last through May 17.

Department of Public Works Director Mark Gundersen said Friday the goal is to complete the utility work in time for Mayfest. Work begins on the Streetscape Enhancement project after Mayfest.

"Businesses will remain open," Gundersen advised. "The sidewalk we'll try to keep open as much as possible."

Portions of the sidewalk will be removed during the utility phase and replaced with asphalt. Work on sidewalks will be more widespread during the second phase.

"It'll be rough road for a while and it's the beginning of a construction zone," Gundersen added.

Town workers began removing some of the trees along King Street this week in anticipation of the projects ahead.

Gundersen said the town has 11 weeks to complete the utilities work. Officials expect the Streetscape Enhancement project to take approximately a year.

The department's staff of 18 employees will work on the utilities project. The construction schedule will runs from 4 p.m. to 7 a.m. Sunday through Thursday. The department is performing the work at night to minimize disruption to businesses and traffic, Gundersen said. Paving and sidewalk work will take place from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Fridays.

Gundersen warned residents and business owners in a 2-block radius of the construction zone to expect to see lights and hear noises such as back-up alerts.

The utilities project calls for the replacement of water and sewer system lines on King Street from Fort Street to Holliday Street. The work also includes line replacement on portions of Fort and Holliday streets near King Street, according to Gundersen.

During construction, workers plan to keep one lane of King Street open.

The director also urged people to remain aware of the town's flaggers directing traffic through the construction zone. Gundersen also advised pedestrians should not enter construction zones while crews are working.

However the town will prohibit parking on King Street in the work zone. Closures may include Holliday and Fort streets between Queen and Washington streets. The town will tow vehicles that remain parked in the construction zones when work begins, Gundersen warned.

"I'm not taking prisoners," Gundersen said. "I hate to say that but if you're in my way I'm towing you."

Pedestrians also should avoid the work zone and try not to distract workers, Gundersen said.

The department's focus on the project means response to other issues that arise in town may take longer than normal because of the limited staff available, Gundersen warned.

The utilities project is needed to upgrade aging lines.

"The system infrastructure has not been updated and capacity-wise there's issues in the system," Gundersen said. "By putting new sewer and water services we're going to be fixing those issues and it's more cost-effective if we do it now compared to if we did it after the enhancement because then we'd have to do the enhancement twice."

While the town must spend funds up front for the construction of the projects Gundersen noted that doing so saves Strasburg time and money in the long run.

The utility project includes installation of larger pipes for the sanitary sewer system and correcting grades that have caused issues, according to Gundersen. The project calls for the replacement of all manholes to allow full access by staff.

The town has had problems with water lines in the area slated for the upgrades, Gundersen said. The Virginia Department of Transportation performs regular repaving of the asphalt, but that work vibrates the pipe system underneath, breaking the couplers that serve the feeds, Gundersen explained. The town plans to replace the couplers.

The town also has dealt with clogging and back-ups in the sewer system, Gundersen said. Some residents experienced sewer problems this past fall, he added.

Strasburg saves "a good chunk of money" by employing staff to perform the utilities work. However, the town must hire a contractor for the Streetscape Enhancement because the project involves federal funds, Gundersen explained.

"We have a little bit of apprehension of not knowing exactly what's there, but anyone in my position would," Gundersen said. "Unmarked utilities that we're just not aware of - that's what concerns us the most at this point; illegal connections for sanitary [sewer].

"There are a myriad of things that we're just trying to accommodate for and we're just trying to get better prepared for, trying to think of all contingencies now in the last two weeks before we go into construction to make sure we have everything covered," Gundersen added.

The director noted that residents may have complaints or concerns as work progresses. Gundersen said anyone can call the Town Hall or the department shop at 465-3025 and leave a message.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com

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