Curious about the current construction and upgrades? See the letter below from Director of Public Works, Tom Sliwoski:
Mayor King and Members of City Council –
I understand there have been some citizen concerns about the construction being done downtown and in the surrounding areas and questions as to why it could not be done at another time. Columbia Gas and Dominion Power did approach us and expressed concern about disruptions caused by their work.
The work by Dominion Power ultimately will provide better and more reliable service for residents. This work is being directed by PJM, Dominion’s regional transmission operator. Dominion’s transmission department was directed to remove 4kv transformers from the Staunton substation on Kalorama St. The circuits fed from these transformers will be eliminated. Customers on these circuits have to be moved to the existing higher voltage circuits. While removing the old circuits, they are also replacing outdated equipment in the area. Outages are necessary when customers are moved to the other circuit. The outage durations depend on lots of variables but Dominion will be contacting the customers beforehand. The majority of outages will be done during the night. So far, crews have been working on W. Frederick, St Clair, W. Beverly, Johnson, Filmore, and Central. The project is being worked toward the substation on Kalorama so other streets to be impacted are E. Frederick, Pump, Lewis, Augusta, Coalter, Aubemarle, Wayt and Kalorama. In addition, the substation on Third St and the existing 4kv substation transformers will be retired rather than replaced. Same scenario as above with eliminating the circuits, moving customers, and replacing outdated equipment. Crews have been working on Poplar, Berry, Straith, Peyton, Lake, Highland and Thornrose. Future streets impacted are Parkview, “A”, 4th, W Frederick, W Beverly, Waverly, 3rd, Grubert, Gray. Dominion was given a very narrow window by PJM to execute this work, as major transmission lines must be shut down and regional electricity loads re-routed. They were also given a completion deadline of Dec 31. Bottom line is Dominion had very little choice in this matter. Dominion was very concerned about the downtown with the economy and the upcoming holidays; they want to get in and get out, quickly and safely. Dominion elected to do this work now to avoid the holiday season and we agreed this was a wise approach. Unfortunately some of it coincided with what Columbia Gas was doing as well as our little project.
Columbia Gas is investing more than $250,000 in Staunton to proactively replace aging natural gas facilities as part of a $100 million, five year infrastructure modernization effort. This also will improve reliability to their customers. The work on N Coalter St is complete. Work continues on Kalorama St., S. Coalter St, and W. Frederick St. The gas mains have been replaced and services will be tied over. They expect these efforts to continue through the end of the year. At this point, these projects are the last ones planned this year, however if Columbia’s budget allows, they may start some work on Churchville Ave between Spaulding and A St.
The City is executing a project at the corner of W Beverley and Lewis to correct a long standing storm water problem that extends down along Beverely St. Initially some gas lines had to be relocated by Columbia Gas in order for this project to start. The line relocation have been done, but now there has been a significant conflict with an underground electrical duct bank. A $10,000 change order will take care of this but also add some delay. Today the contractor hit a utility pole which Dominion needed to reset. All effort is being made to maintain traffic flow at this intersection in some capacity. Unfortunately each day brings a new challenge and it is difficult to forecast what that traffic flow will be. When the contractor gets back into the middle of the intersection, we have no choice but to close it. We expect this project to be completed no earlier than 31 Oct, and assuming no weather delays.
Delays and disruptions caused by this work have been frustrating for the utilities, the contractors, City staff as well as residents. All utilities have made a significant financial investment in upgrading their infrastructure which is a good thing. Collectively we can always do better communicating, scheduling and managing, however sometimes construction projects don’t always go as one wishes or plans. Oftentimes weather and seasons dictate what is done and when, although whenever construction work takes place, it seems there is never a good time, as it will always impact someone to some degree. Work will be continuing and in general should be moving away from the downtown area. Assuming no significant weather delays, all work by Dominion and Columbia should be completed by the end of the calendar year, and should start winding down as we get closer to that date.
Director, Public Works