2017-04-06 / Front Page

Construction on water main underway

By Garrick Hoffman
Staff Writer

SACO – Maine Water, a private company that serves as Saco and Biddeford’s water district, is conducting repairs on water infrastructure in parts of Saco from now until June.

Mickey Hall, superintendent of Maine Water’s Saco and Biddeford district, said the work will be on Elm, Main and Beach streets, and will involve replacing a 2,200-foot water main that was originally installed in 1885, as well as replacing a number of valves that weren’t functioning correctly.

Work began two weeks ago at the intersection of Beach, North, Elm and Main streets, with construction teams operating between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. to avoid traffic complications.

Hall said night work is expected to be completed by the end of this week. Once it is, work will revert to daytime hours between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. for about a month until crews reach the intersection by Pepperell Square, when nighttime construction will begin again to avoid traffic complications.

The project is expected to be finished by June 16 to avoid construction at the height of the busy season, Hall said.

According to Saco Main Street Executive Director Rob Biggs in a post on Saco Main Street’s Facebook page, work started on Elm and Beach streets and will proceed from north to south down Main Street.

“Maine Water has a good plan and a good contractor, which should reduce any inconveniences as much as possible,” Biggs said. “There will be some work done at night in the areas of intersections to reduce traffic problems. Traffic will resume normal patterns and flow at the end of each workday. There will be some delays but the crews will be as efficient as possible. Once this work is done the Maine Department of Transportation wil bel repaving our Main Street in 2018 and there will be a fiveyear minimum moratorium on any future digging.”

The five-year moratorium is a policy that applies to any road in the city that is repaved, Biggs said. In this case, it applies to Main Street after it is paved in 2018.

The policy has been in place for 10 to 15 years or more, said Saco Public Works Director Patrick Fox.

Biggs said the policy ensures preservation of a road to lengthen its lifecycle. For example, Middle Street was paved about three years ago. It still has about a year and a half until any digging can be done to it, Biggs said, meaning any work that involves tearing up pavement on it is restricted until the moratorium expires. The moratorium will only be ignored under emergency situations.

If a newly paved road is disturbed, it can cause adverse effects such as the allowance of water into the pavement, which can then freeze and create potholes.

In addition, Biggs said any business or residence on Main Street that wants a gas line connected to their building must do it before spring 2018 when the Maine Department of Transportation repaves it. If not, it will be five years until they are allowed to connect gas lines, per rules of the moratorium. Costs for connecting a gas line would be negotiated with the building’s owner and Unitil, a utility holding company that provides electric and gas distribution services in New England.

Hall said Maine Water’s work is being done as a preventative measure.

“The former company (in charge of Saco and Biddeford’s water) would just react to problems. We’re trying to get ahead of that to avoid problems and replace stuff ahead of time before it completely fails,” he said.

The company hired Shaw Brothers Construction of Gorham to complete the job because of Maine Water’s lack of adequate means to conduct the work, Hall said. Although Maine Water has a crew that is dispatched to work in the field, the project in Saco was too large for the company to complete because it lacks proper machinery and other utilities.

Maine Water determines necessary repairs by age and how many problems arise from mains or valves. Maine Water was prompted to act because the pipe work on Main Street is 130 years old.

“We do as much as we can every year to get ahead,” he said. “That’s a struggle every utility has – staying ahead of age they have in ground.”

Fox said Maine Water wanted to begin the project immediately because of work being done by the city in the fall and by Maine Department of Transportation in 2018.

Work in the fall will involve sewer and drainage repairs, Fox said. The city has an old brick sewer line on Main Street that will have a new lining installed within it. Fox said the project should have minimal impact on businesses and residents because excavation work won’t be significant.

Fox said the Maine Water project, however, will have a significant impact on residents and businesses in affected construction areas due to the scale of the excavation work.

In spring 2018, Maine Department of Transportation is scheduled to pave Main Street and Industrial Park Road, Fox said. Maine Water wanted to ensure the work beneath Main Street is completed before the road is repaved.

After the project on the water main is completed in June, there will be no work done until fall when sewer and drainage repairs are made.

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