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Sewer-line work in Downtown Staunton to lead to closures on Central Avenue

The City of Staunton will launch a major construction project this winter to install a new sewer line along Central Avenue through the downtown area. The $1.5 million project will involve substantial excavation and the sequential closure of Central Avenue and its cross streets for at least six months.

The new 18-inch sanitary sewer is essential to relieve an undersized line and to improve the health of Lewis Creek. The current line, a 14 inch line placed in 1938, runs through the tunnel that carries Lewis Creek along Central Avenue. Backups or overflows in that line now spill into the stream. The required depth of the new line, 15 feet, will mean that all of Central Avenue will have to be closed during construction to allow room for work. The new line is expected to pass under existing utilities and no power, phone, gas, or water interruptions are expected.

“We badly need this new line, but we are also well aware that it is a major project right through the middle of downtown,” said Steve Owen, City Manager. “We know it will disrupt businesses, residents, parking, and traffic flows downtown, but we are absolutely committed to working with those affected to minimize problems and find ways to enhance access, to meet special needs, and to keep those involved fully informed of progress.”

James Davis, City Engineer, notes, “We have scheduled this needed project at a time when retail business is generally slower, and we hope to complete work through most of the downtown area before the beginning of the spring season.” He said, “By announcing this project early, we can solicit public input on how to minimize disruption and inconvenience and be able to build some of those solutions into our contract for this work.”

Although the project will last at least six months, it will be done in phases so that most sections of Central Avenue will be closed only for three to four weeks. Work will begin on the east side of the Wharf Parking Lot, run along Johnson Street to Central Avenue, then go up Central all the way to Pump Street.

Generally work will be undertaken and streets closed in only one block at a time. Intersections with major streets like West Beverley Street and Frederick Street will necessitate closure of those streets as well, although those closures should be of shorter duration.

Davis said that his staff would be pulling together the contract requirements over the next few months. He said it would be advertised in November and bids would be received in December. Work was expected to begin about the middle of January.

The SDDA leadership has been apprised of the project and downtown merchants are receiving details from the SDDA now. City staff is already beginning to contact merchants along Central Avenue to explain the project and to gather input on needs. City staff will conduct a public meeting tentatively set for 6 p.m. September 21 at City Hall for those interested. The meeting will present details on the project plans and solicit questions, requests and suggestions.

Davis said he and his staff would remain available to merchants and others along Central Avenue and nearby areas throughout construction and would do all possible to accommodate deliveries and special needs during the work. “We know we can’t make the disruption go away, but we will do all we can to work with those affected,” he said. “We know how important things are like deliveries, parking and access, and we will do what we can to make those things easier.”

Although the size of the existing Central Avenue sewer line has been a concern for years, a recent engineering study clarified the problem and proposed this solution. Davis noted that the city had found in recent bidding that area contractors were “sharpening their pencils” to get contracts and that scheduling this major work now would save taxpayer dollars.

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