Over the past few weeks, commuters driving Airport Road have encountered delay after delay. From floods to Department of Transportation (DOT) workers, Airport Road has seen its fair share of action. It was no different yesterday.
Due to severe flooding and plugged storm drains two weeks ago, drivers had to suffer through heavy traffic and DOT crews pumping out the water. According to the DOT, there was an obstruction in the drainage pipe.
After a camera inspection, maintenance workers were able to pinpoint the location of the obstruction in the western end of the pipe. The DOT design crew is currently reviewing the inspection report and will recommend how to remove the obstruction. According to DOT spokeswoman Rose Amoros, the review will be done this week but there is no date for crews to go out to Airport Road and remove the obstruction.
But drivers’ woes don’t end there. Over the course of the next month, National Grid will replace 4,000 feet of a gas main along Airport Road, and five side streets. As of Sunday, Airport Road was downsized to only two lanes because of the construction.
David Graves, National Grid’s media representative, said the company is putting equipment in position and excavation will begin this week. National Grid anticipates that the project will be completed within a month. This means that National Grid and the DOT will be doing roadwork at the same time.
“We will work it out and try to get the repairs done as timely as possible,” said Amoros.
Graves said that the main replacement program does not have anything to do with the flooding issues that have been occurring on Airport Road. While the DOT is notified of any work that National Grid does, they are not working together on this project.
“When we do work with them, we work in conjunction with state and municipal government to make sure any work is done collaboratively and cooperatively,” said Graves.
Working with cities and towns is a common practice for National Grid, especially when there is already roadwork going on. If the city is repaving the road, National Grid will replace the gas main first and the city will follow and repave what was dug up.
The project is part of a gas main replacement program across the state in which National Grid does a general system update on gas mains. National Grid replaced 50 miles of gas mains last year, and hopes to complete another 50 miles this year.
When National Grid purchased the Rhode Island gas system from New England Gas in 2006, it conducted a yearlong analysis of the entire system and has since completed the work based on that analysis. Now, they conduct new system checks every year to submit to the Rhode Island Public Utilities Commission for the following fiscal year.
“The analysis mainly entails the type of material in the ground, whether its steel or cast iron, primarily the age, any history of leaks that have been reported, there’s a number of criteria,” said Graves. “We’re always looking to improve reliability.”
National Grid uses a heavy, rubberized product, which is lighter than steel and cast iron and is easier to work with to replace the old lines. According to Graves, it is at the highest industry standard.
The main replacement project is part of National Grid’s overall infrastructure safety and reliability plan, which not only includes main replacement, but any other projects that need construction. The safety and reliability plan has a budget of about $65 million.
The final date on the main replacement project will depend on the weather conditions over the next month, but drivers can expect to hit another bump in the road during their daily commute.