AUGUSTA — A major stormwater pipe that runs under a commercial building will be abandoned, and the stormwater system it is part of rerouted, as part of a $1.2 million project that also will include repaving Northern Avenue and Townsend Road.

Both those roads served as alternative routes for drivers during a two-year, $4.3 million reconstruction of nearby Mount Vernon Avenue, which wrapped up earlier this summer. Now, in a bit of role reversal, Mount Vernon Avenue will serve as a likely alternative route for commuters and others looking to avoid delays resulting from the upcoming construction project on Northern Avenue and Townsend Road.

The project was timed, and ended up needing to be delayed, so it wouldn’t begin until after the Mount Vernon Avenue project was completed, to avoid having too many disruptions to traffic at the same time.

“We would have been doing this sooner if Mount Vernon Avenue was completed, but that went longer than we expected, which delayed this, so we’re gearing up to go full bore,” said Lionel Cayer, city engineer. “During heavy milling operations and paving, it will be down to one lane open to traffic, with flaggers. We will have plenty of advance notice ahead of the startup of work, so motorists can choose alternate routes, including Mount Vernon Avenue, especially now that it’s nicely done.”

Cayer said the project probably will start in a few weeks.

It will grind up old pavement and put down a new coat of pavement on all of Townsend Road, which runs between Northern Avenue and Civic Center Drive; and Northern Avenue, which turns into West River Road, from Mill Park to just before Route 3.

It is an area that has undergone significant construction in recent years, including the installation of natural gas pipelines, by private companies, under streets and sidewalks.

The city is overseeing construction of the project, but the Greater Augusta Utility District is also involved and paying for its share of the project. The state Department of Transportation is providing partial funding for the work on a road for that, until recently, the state was responsible for maintaining.

The Greater Augusta Utility District’s involvement in the project includes rerouting a 36-inch stormwater pipe that runs across multiple pieces of private property along Northern Avenue and under a commercial building occupied by Servpro and for many years Bilodeau Motors, at 7 Townsend Road. The district wants to relocate the pipe because it is inaccessible for maintenance now.

The existing pipe running under the Servpro building won’t be removed. Rather, it will be abandoned where it is and filled in with a “flowable fill” material that will be poured into the old pipe and harden, to prevent the pipe from taking in water or causing problems once it is no longer part of the system that manages runoff.

Andy Begin, assistant general manager and chief engineer for the utility district, which is independent of the city, said a new pipe to take the abandoned one’s place will be buried, not under a building, closer to the intersection of Northern and Townsend.

Begin said coming across underground pipes buried under buildings is not a frequent occurrence, but it is also not unusual.

He speculated that when the pipe was first put in, the area was undeveloped fields. Over time development grew, and officials didn’t always monitor building projects closely enough to prevent a building from being built on top of a pipe.

“Honestly, we probably have a lot of infrastructure that runs across private property,” Begin said. “It probably used to be somebody’s field; it used to be a cross-country pipe. Then there was a mix of development, in the ’50s and ’60s, that went in. It wasn’t uncommon, prior to more formal planning processes, for people to start poking up houses everywhere, after the infrastructure was in place.”

He said that part of the project isn’t expected to be problematic.

“We’re not taking down any buildings. We’re not going to be working close to buildings. We’re going to abandon our infrastructure in place,” he said. “I don’t see it as a complicated project.”

The owner of the 7 Townsend Road building the pipe is under couldn’t be reached for comment Friday.

All-States Asphalt, of Windham, was the apparent low bidder on the project, with a bid of $1 million, Cayer said.

The paving part of the project will require numerous utility district sewer and catch basin covers to be lowered to allow for the roadway to be ground down, then raised back up once the new pavement is in place.

Sidewalks on Northern Avenue also will modified to comply with Americans with Disabilities Act requirements. Raised cast iron plates will be added to sidewalks in locations where they come up to the road, to help pedestrians who are blind detect the road.

The project initially was expected to be completed this year, but with the start of it postponed because of delays in the Mount Vernon Avenue project, work is expected to start this fall, pause for winter, then be finished in the spring.

Cayer said the city considered having the work done at night to speed the project, but that option was not pursued because it is more costly and could be disruptive to the residential area.

Cayer said the city hopes the contractor can get Northern Avenue done up to the Townsend Road intersection this construction season, with work on the rest of it, and all of Townsend Road, resuming in the spring and being completed by June 15.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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