City gears up for construction on Grand, North 27th Street

2014-04-08T00:00:00Z 2014-04-08T16:05:05Z City gears up for construction on Grand, North 27th StreetBy MIKE FERGUSON The Billings Gazette

Two large water line replacement projects — and the pavement overlays that will seal the deal in both cases — will dominate spring and summer construction on city streets in Billings, City Engineer Debi Meling said Friday.

The project with the greatest potential inconvenience for travelers and affected businesses — on Grand Avenue between 17th Street West and 24th Street West — is being completed in smaller-than-usual segments to reduce disruption to businesses.

The second major construction project will be replacement of water lines and overlay on North 27th Street between Montana Avenue and Sixth Avenue North.

Both projects are scheduled to be bid in May with construction to begin in June.

Together they’ll cost about $3.5 million, Meling said, although the exact cost won’t be known until the bids are received. The projects are paid for through residents’ water bills.

Public works officials gave serious consideration to night construction for the Grand Avenue project, Meling said, but elected for daytime work for one reason: many of the affected businesses, including casinos, have considerable nighttime activity.

During the project, at least one lane is scheduled to be open in each direction. Meling said the city polled business owners over which hours and which days are critical for their businesses. While it’s more expensive to complete the project in shorter segments, that approach should reduce the impact on the businesses, she said.

“It’ll be terribly disruptive, but we’ve done as much planning as we could,” she said.

Each year, Billings replaces about one-half of one percent of its waterlines, which works out to a 200-year plan to replace every foot of line. The trouble is that, on average, modern-day waterlines last only a century or so.

Most projects involve PVC lines, which are preferred to ductile iron because PVC is inert and doesn’t corrode.

In addition to the two waterline projects, “a lot” of sewer projects will be completed, but since they occur in alleys, “most people won’t know they’re even happening,” Meling said.

Another sewer project a little north and east of Optimist Park will be funded by tax increment dollars. That project will connect nearly 150 homes to the city sewer system.

“It’s exciting as to what that will accomplish,” Meling said. “To replace a septic system on a small city lot is hugely expensive. Many of those homes are getting to the age where they fail.”

Reconstructing Calhoun Lane in South Billings will also be done using TIF money as well as city funding, “but our contribution is a lot smaller,” she said.

Further north, the Inner Belt Loop should be completed this summer, as long as hot mix becomes available in the coming weeks. Work on that project continued through the winter while Alkali Creek was at its lowest. “Nobody was impacted, because it’s a brand new road,” she said. "We like those projects. They don’t cause any consternation.”

A handful of paving projects, which involve milling the top off the roadway and then overlaying, will cost about $1.2 million. About $1 million in chip seal projects are scattered around town.

Neither will suffer a funding reduction because of the harsh winter, Public Works Director Dave Mumford said. Instead, about $215,000 will be taken from reserves to cover all the extra plowing required during Billings’ snowiest winter in history.

While public works officials are preparing for all the planned work, they must also deal with a more pressing concern — Zimmerman Trail.

A Thursday meeting with state and federal transportation officials revealed six spots on the Rimrocks above Zimmerman Trail where rock stabilization may be necessary. By fast-tracking the issue, officials plan a May 8 bid date on the work followed by a one-week bid period.

The $8 million worth of planned work on Zimmerman will be funded by a federal earmark, with the rock stabilization work expected to cost between $1 million and $2 million.

If officials can keep to the proposed timetable, the closed portion of Zimmerman Trail could be open by June 30, she said.

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