Mebane is about to embark on a series of construction projects that could cause some disruptions along Clay Street, a main artery through downtown Mebane, but which are intended to make the oldest sections more efficient and less subject to the ongoing need for urgent repairs.
Water and sewer lines along Clay Street, one of the oldest portions of the city, are over 100 years old, and are in continuing need of repair, council members were told at their November meeting. They also contribute to a “sag” under the street, utilities director Kyle Smith explained, inasmuch as the lines and the earth around them continue to deteriorate. That then adds to a problem with the pavement on Clay Street, as well.
Smith outlined the problems and the process for remedying them to the city council in November. The council ultimately gave the green light to proceed with bidding out the work as requested.
Those bids are expected to be brought back to the council as early as February, with work to begin soon after.
The problems along Clay Street are several, and some have presented recurring difficulties, as council members heard last fall before deciding to spend about $1 million to address the layers of infrastructure issues.
Previously subject to frequent repairs, city officials are now looking for a longer term solution to the road that is often described as the second main street in downtown Mebane. The key area is between Third and Fourth streets, and also including one stretch between Fourth and Fifth streets, as well as a portion of Fourth Street itself (between Clay and Center streets).
Both the streets themselves, as well as water and sewer lines under it, are 100 years old or more, according to city officials.
“Settlement” of the pavement and soil under the street have led to “voids, or “sags” developing, as described by utilities director Kyle Smith, some of which have previously been filled with a foam-like material. But some of that fill material has deteriorated, resulting in additional air space, or voids, under the streets.
In addition to filling in the voids, part of the strategy will be to “slip-line” existing stormwater and sewer lines. Rather than dig up the streets, this methodology uses what’s described as “trenchless technology” to apply a sealant – of high-density polyurethane structural resin – in existing stormwater and sewer lines, without opening the street.
The old pipes are not to be replaced, but rather the new sealant will seal any cracks to make for more efficient utility lines, providing the equivalent of new pipes within the existing pipes, Smith explained.
Assistant city manager Preston Mitchell described the process as creating new water and sewer lines from the inside.
Above ground, the city also plans to revise the mid-block crosswalk, both raising the crosswalk itself (something akin to a speed hump) and providing some “bump-out bulbs” in the sidewalk space, narrowing the roadway immediately adjacent to the crosswalk.
Also above ground, the city will convert some of the spaces into three additional handicapped parking spaces in the three-block area where there are now two such spaces. A total of 81 spaces exist along those streets now, and there will be that same number when the project is finished, officials said – the configuration changing from 79 regular with two handicapped to 76 regular with a total of five handicapped spaces.
A temporary water line will be used during part of the reconstruction, and because temperatures must be above 40 degrees, officials said it would late spring at the earliest they would be able to start that part of the repairs.
Once the work begins, it is estimated to take 10-15 working days to complete, and during the temporary water line phase, affected customers will not be charged for water since their meters will not be working properly during the transition.
Additionally, fire hydrants in the area will be out of service, but the fire department has developed an alternative during the construction time frame.
All in all, the project – above and below the pavement – is estimated to cost $1 million. Bids on the first phase of the project are due to be opened on this coming Tuesday.
That price tag, while high, compared, Smith said, to the possibility that total replacement of water and sewer lines on the two streets (Clay and Fourth) could run around $1.5 million. Coupled with the street improvements above ground, however, the total price tag could reach $2 million, if the city had opted for the total replacement approach.
In addition to the higher costs for new lines, it was also noted that the trenching required to install new lines would disrupt traffic and service to businesses along Clay Street for several months, a result officials said they wanted to avoid.
City manager Chris Rollins emphasized that most of the work on the proposed project would be undertaken at night, between 9:00 p.m. and 9:00 a.m., to provide as little disruption to Clay Street businesses and traffic as possible.
Councilman Tim Bradley commented that his primary concern was that the proposed strategy would “fix it” permanently for another 100 years.
City council members seemed pleased with city’s plan. A smaller, initial patching of Clay Street was also approved for the pre-Christmas time period and has, in fact, been completed.
Council members voted unanimously to begin the bidding process, the first part of which will be revealed during the bid opening now scheduled for Tuesday, January 10, but a day late for the next city council meeting on Monday.
[The following table shows the expenses for the various components of the project – as well as the distribution in allocation between the city’s general fund ($568,000) vs. its utility fund ($432,000).]