Waterline work underway on Main Street

Published 1:17 pm Wednesday, February 8, 2017

By Ryan Kushner

Staff writer

Heavy machinery is rumbling in the Smithfield Historic District as construction crews work to replace the road’s century-old waterline along its 100 and 200 blocks, a procedure that will disrupt traffic on the busy commercial street for the next couple of months.

Crews finished the first phase of work on the 100 block and have moved on to the larger 200 block this week.  

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The project, which officially began Monday, Jan. 30, is being done by Lewis Construction of Virginia. Crews have been tackling one block at a time, starting with the 100 block, digging up the street to upgrade the 8-inch cast iron water main to a 12-inch plastic pipe. Construction, which was set back a week by an early January snow storm, is scheduled to wrap up toward the end of March, provided all goes according to plan, according to Stacy Lewis, co-owner of Lewis Construction.  

Until then, barricades will be used to close the blocks one at a time to through traffic, said Lewis at a public meeting with Main Street business owners Wednesday, Jan. 25.     {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

Construction work will occur from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays, according to Smithfield Public Works Superintendent Jesse Snead, but the block under construction will be closed around the clock to through traffic, including during the weekends, according to Town Manager Peter Stephenson.

Because of the age of the street, crews are not entirely sure what they will find under the surface, which could potentially lead to some delays, according to Lewis.

“We have a game plan, but we are anticipating that we are going to run into stuff where we don’t know what it is,” Lewis said at the meeting. “Could there be delays? Absolutely. Should they be long delays? No, they shouldn’t.”

After finishing the installation of the water main on both blocks and testing the water quality, crews will then double back to the 100 block, repeating the closure procedure, this time around installing new water service lines to each of the buildings, as well as replacing sewer lateral lines on an as-needed basis.

Water services done during the day would cause a roughly two-hour interruption in a Main Street building’s water flow, according to Lewis.

“If you have an eatery or a restaurant, then we can arrange to do those services at night after you close,” Lewis told business owners.  “But if we’re only talking about restrooms, we can make this happen during the day as well.”

The crews will also attempt to accommodate delivery services for businesses, and Lewis asked that business delivery schedules be emailed Smithfield 2020 (at smithfield2020@gmail.com), a local organization helping to facilitate communication with businesses and the town during the project.

Gas Company tag-along

Following discussions with the town, Columbia Gas Company agreed to move a gas line replacements on Main Street to January 2018, according to Town Manager Peter Stephenson, which had been its original schedule.

Columbia Gas, upon learning that Smithfield would be tearing up Main Street to replace its water main this winter, had earlier expressed interest in seizing the opportunity to also replace and repair a couple of its gas lines on the street’s 100 and 200 blocks. 

The town was first approached by the company over the summer to work following along behind the waterline replacement construction this winter.  

In an email last week, Columbia Gas said it couldn’t get to work until around April, according to Snead — prime tourist season for Smithfield.

“If they were to come in and work this spring after us and then we milled and resurfaced the street after that, we would be lucky to have everything finished by July,” Stephenson said in an email. “This would be detrimental to our important tourism industry.”

The gas company’s plan will ultimately prevent Smithfield from fully resurfacing the road until next year after the company’s repairs are completed.  

“We would have to patch it as smoothly as we could until they’re finished, whenever they’re finished,” Stephenson said at a committee meeting last week.  

The town is essentially at the whim of what the company wants to do, according to Stephenson, but said the company was “very cooperative” after a conference hall between the two entities last week.   {/mprestriction}