WATERVILLE — Motorists and pedestrians can expect to see excavation this week on Main Street in downtown Waterville as the Kennebec Water District launches a $2.7 million project to replace about a mile of old, cast-iron water pipe laid more than 100 years ago.

The project to replace the pipes with cement-lined iron pipes will start near the Lockwood Hotel being built at the south end of Main Street, where workers will tie into the existing water main that comes down Front Street, according to Roger Crouse, general manager of the water district.

Pipe will be laid from the hotel to Common Street on Main Street and then workers will go to the north end of Main Street, where College Avenue and Elm Street meet at Post Office Square, and work their way south, excavating and replacing pipe, Crouse said Monday.

“On Main Street,” he said, “they’ll be taking all the old pipe out and putting new pipe in the exact same spot.”

Streets to be affected include Main, Front, Appleton, Temple, Common, Hathaway, Leighton and Deeb.

Most of the pipes are 8 or 12 inches wide, although some 4- or 6-inch pipes will also be laid, according to Crouse. The pipes are now piled at the north end of Head of Falls, off Front Street.

“We’re excited to be moving forward with this project to improve part of our infrastructure,” Crouse said. “This is a key project for us, for the future work that needs to get done.”

The project is expected to be completed in mid-November, before the city launches a $7.37 million federal BUILD grant project to change the traffic patterns downtown from one-way to two-way, improve intersections, update sidewalks, do plantings, install benches and perform other work intended to help revitalize downtown Waterville.

The water district’s work is being funded through a $700,000 grant from the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund and a loan with a 1% interest rate, according to Crouse. He said the water district is able to do the work without having to increase customer rates.

Ranger Contracting Inc. of Fairfield is the contractor for the project, designed by Wright-Pierce, a Topsham engineering firm that will administer and inspect the work.

Crouse said electronic signs will be placed at the north and south ends of Main Street to notify motorists of traffic flow interruptions, such as detours.

Construction is scheduled for 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday. The new pipes are expected to last another 100 years.

The Kennebec Water District serves residential and commercial customers in Waterville, Winslow, Fairfield, Benton and Vassalboro, with water piped from China Lake.

With the stay-at-home order in place because of the coronavirus pandemic, the decrease of traffic in the Main Street area will make the work easier, although workers will abide by social distancing requirements, which can pose some challenges, according to Crouse.

Asked if it were possible the project will move more quickly because of fewer vehicles on the streets, Crouse said he was not sure.

“It’ll simplify things but whether it will go faster, I don’t know,” he said. “Social distancing may slow things down.”

At the water district office, the on-site workforce has been reduced due to the virus, with some employees working from home and crew members, also at home but on work status, ready to come in when needed, according to Crouse.

“We’re doing quite well,” he said, “despite the fact that we have delayed some spring projects.”


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