FALL RIVER – Detour ahead.
It was a busy digging season this past summer and fall as William S. Canning Boulevard in the South End of the Fall River was dug to install a new storm sewer and then repaved with a smooth surface.
But the city’s north end has also recorded a portion of the road ditch by work teams either replacing obsolete underground drinking water pipes or connecting new natural gas pipelines.
In terms of city government improvement projects, the ongoing plumbing installation on the hills of President Avenue was hard to miss.
Paul Ferland, city administrator for the Department of Community Utilities, said the residential water pipeline replacement project in that part of the city began in September further east on Ray Street from President Avenue to Hood Street.
Last week, Ferland said, work to replace the aqueduct has been concentrated in the middle of the hilly section of President Avenue. The work teams opened a vertical vein of the road between Underwood and Rock Streets.
However, Ferland emphasizes that unlike some other places where traffic must be diverted – including the top of President Avenue a few weeks ago – in this case, one lane through the work zone remains open.
According to Ferland, the water pipe replacement project is part of the city’s 20-year water system master plan, which dates back to 2000 and was updated in 2015.
The work done this season is considered phase 19. According to Ferland, the entire project is expected to require an additional 15 to 20 phases.
The annual cost averaged $ 5 million, he said. According to Ferland, the city has taken out a series of 20-year soft loans for government revolving funds, also known as SRF loans, with an annual interest rate of two percent.
Massachusetts SRF loans are made available to local authorities specifically to support water infrastructure improvement projects. Ferland said all SRF loans require city council approval.
All the money to repay the loans, according to Ferland, comes from the fees of the interest payers, which accrue in the funds of the city’s water and sewage companies.
“We don’t get any tax money,” said Ferland. “It’s fully backed by the rates (and) it seems a lot of people don’t understand that.”
Ferland said there will be another traffic disruption on President Avenue in the next three to four weeks as Liberty Utilities installs new natural gas pipelines.
He said other streets planned for the installation of new water pipes and connections to houses are Rock Street, which runs from Bedford to Prospect Street, and Barrett Street, which is bordered by Hamlet and Peckham Streets.
According to Ferland, the new drinking water pipes have helped eliminate or at least minimize complaints about brownish or dirty looking water.
However, he points out that even rusty-looking water has been chlorinated and is therefore drinkable.
Many old water pipes, according to Ferland, date back well over 100 years and are “tubercular” or clogged and encrusted with iron, rust and minerals that hinder the flow and impair the natural appearance of the water.
He said this year’s Phase 19 work will be completed in November. According to Ferland, Millis-based CJP Construction Company won the job offer and got the job done.
Liberty Utilities was busy on the streets of the Fall River as well.
Robeson Street was closed to traffic between Pine and Locust blocks for the past week.
Charlotte Street, which runs between New Boston Road and President Avenue, has been excavated and cordoned off as work teams from New Jersey’s Ferreira Construction Company install new gas pipelines.
“Part of our gas system improvement program is to replace leak-prone pipes and improve safety for our customers,” said James Kerry, spokesman for Liberty Utilities in Fall River, which provides services to Somerset, Swansea, Westport, North Attleboro and Plainville .
Perry said new gas lines were also being installed on Valentine Street, which runs from Highland Avenue to Elsbree Street.
He said the company intends to work more closely with the city over the next construction season to ensure the public is better informed of upcoming work and detours.
“We will try to improve our plans to notify our customers and the public,” said Perry.
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