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Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Utility Repairs and Road Restoration

Most of us do not often think about the condition of aging utility pipes that supply our homes and businesses with potable water and natural gas until a problem such as a gas leak or water main break interrupts our daily routines.

But many of these systems are decades old and need rehabilitation, repair or replacement. Increased development demands, new technology, and future stability also drive a demand for increased capacity of this underground infrastructure.

Rehabilitation and replacement projects often necessitate temporary road closures and detours while roadways are opened to permit utility companies to make these upgrades.

Atlantic County regulates such work on county roadways and is responsible for monitoring traffic control measures and the process to restore the roadway upon completion of utility work.

Utility construction is coordinated to minimize the interruption of services and inconvenience to the public while maintaining their safety. Traffic control signage is put in place in construction zones to further ensure public protection.

“The county holds pre-construction meetings with project representatives, including utility companies, to review plans and schedules as well as discuss and resolve any potential concerns,” stated County Engineer Mark Shourds. “Utility companies must also receive road opening permits prior to construction.”

A typical utility gas or water main construction schedule could involve the following:

  1. Trenches are dug adjacent to and parallel to the existing utility main and the new main is installed, backfilled and temporary “patch” pavement is used to level the roadway so traffic can be permitted back on that section of the road. This new main is not yet connected to any supply pipes, lines extending down side streets, or any of the laterals servicing homes and business.
  2. When a sufficient length of pipe has been laid in this manner, the pipes are pressure-tested to verify they can be put into service.
  3. New excavations are dug where needed to connect this new main to the supply source and the main is then charged. These excavations are once again backfilled and patched.
  4. New excavations are dug where needed to connect this new main to the side street piping networks as old portions of the prior main are taken off-line. Again the excavations are backfilled and patched.
  5. This method must then be performed in the locations of each service lateral all while keeping portions of the old main intact so that the loss of supply to each home and business is limited. The excavations are once again backfilled and patched temporarily.
  6. When the new main is on-line and all side streets and laterals are connected the old main can be taken off-line, removed completely or filled with grout and abandoned in-place. This requires yet more excavations, more backfill and more temporary patching.
  7. After the last excavations are backfilled, a minimum of 30 days is required for proper settlement of trenches and boxed out excavations.
  8. After settlement the roadway is milled, paved, restriped by the contractor to complete the new smooth surface.

Depending on the size and length of the project, and the work needed in the trenches to avoid conflict with other underground utilities, completion of road resurfacing can take several months. Because of the impact on motorists, work may be scheduled during the evening and overnight hours to minimize public inconvenience.

“Utility repair and replacement projects are, unfortunately, a necessity of life,” added County Executive Dennis Levinson. “While we may bemoan the temporary interruption they cause and the related traffic delays and detours, our infrastructures become weakened and compromised with age. They need to be addressed so that we may continue to enjoy clean water and natural gas, without so much as a thought.”

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