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Three-peat for pipe work closing road for long time?

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POSTED March 21, 2012 1:05 a.m.

The current “shut down” on Woodward Avenue work is eerily familiar to Manteca Mayor Willie Weatherford and Councilman Vince Hernandez.

It reminds them of the extended closure of Woodward Avenue east of Woodward Park that forced residents in that area to take three-mile detours for over a year. It three also is reminiscent of the fiasco on Button Avenue that kept much of the street closed and torn up for the better part of two years. In all three cases the delay is being caused by issues related to installing larger pipeline and soil conditions.

Weatherford grilled city staff during Tuesday’s council meeting pressing for answers involving work stoppage on the $9 million Woodward Avenue project. It involves installing sewer and storm drain lines between McKinley Avenue and Main Street as well as street improvements.

The mayor was told that work is now 30 to 45 days behind schedule and that a change order to the project expected to surpass $1 million would be coming before the council next month. That is on top of three change orders of less than $25,000 apiece approved by City Manager Karen McLaughlin and the $129,369.80 change order that Weatherford voted against Tuesday.

Hernandez prior to the vote asked what would happen if the council didn’t approved the change order. McLaughlin noted that it would basically stop the project dead in its track with the road being unable to reopen. Hernandez along with council members Debby Moorhead and John Harris voted for the change order. Councilman Steve DeBrum was absent.

Weatherford said residents along the street are getting frustrated especially since they haven’t seen construction activity for a number of weeks. The end result is making it extremely difficult to get to their homes.

Tuesday’s change order is the result construction crews coming across clay between Galleria Drive and Airport Way at higher levels than a geotechnical report prepared during the design of the project showed. The report did show there was clay at certain depths but not at the point where it was encountered.

Sandy loam ended up getting mixed with the clay. While sandy loam drains quickly, clay holds moisture. That means the soil can’t be compacted properly. The change order allows a chemical treatment to release the water before compaction takes place.

Next change order may cost $1.2 million

Municipal staff is preparing a recommendation that the City Council trigger the alternate bid for the massive Woodward Avenue infrastructure project that would essentially bury much of the 2.5-mile long major sewer trunk line being installed even deeper to avoid the need for maintaining and powering three sewer lift stations in the future.

Such a move would cost the city $1.2 million upfront that they could recover over 20 years. It would then avoid at least twice that amount in operating costs over the 50 years plus minimum life expectancy of the sewer pipe.

The base bid called for the sewer line to gradually move closer to the surface until it was five feet below when it reached Main Street from the west along the Woodward Avenue corridor. By going with the alternative option that was bid out at the same time, the line would be deeper at Main Street - 15 feet to be exact. That would tie in with a line that was buried more than 10 years ago beneath the intersection to provide future sewer service to the Woodward Park neighborhoods. It means after the pipeline is completed, the sewer lift station on the northwest corner of Woodward Park would no longer be needed.

Public Works Director Mark Houghton noted previously that the project - and bid - was purposely formulated so that when the project neared Airport Way there could be an assessment of how effective the contractor had been working in the varied soil along Woodward Avenue that runs the gamut from clay to sandy loam. The line already in place will still be used.

Clovis-based Floyd Johnston Construction - if the council concurs - would have $1.2 million added to the original contract of $9 million to pursue the deeper gravity flow.

The project was expected to take 16 months. To avoid disrupting all residents along Woodward Avenue through the length of the project work, it is proceeding in one section at a time.

Weatherford has been vocal about his concerns about the project from the start. He noted he had brought up repeatedly to staff that developers in the area contended the city would experience problems with their design. The mayor is also concerned the opening request for the $1.2 million change order would make it difficult for the city to pursue other capital improvement projects in a timely manner that rely on growth fees.

Funds for the work will be borrowed from growth fee accounts and repaid with interest from connection fees paid by future development along the 2.5-mile corridor that stretches from Main Street to McKinley Avenue. There are 1,500 building lots already approved along the corridor.

The overall project is designed to put storm drains, a main sewer line, wider street, turn lanes, and landscaping  in place all in one fell swoop to avoid going back repeatedly and making cuts into the asphalt.

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