If you’ve encountered a lot of detours in the last several months, it’s probably partly due to National Grid’s program to upgrade its natural gas mains.
Yesterday, construction crews were working on Church Avenue; on Hayes Street in Buttonwoods; streets leading off Gilbert Street in Apponaug; and, at the most congested spot of them all, the intersection of Centerville and Diamond Hill Roads. The work involves the replacement of gas mains and the installation of new connections, explained David Graves, spokesman for National Grid.
And by no means is the work being limited to what AGI Construction was hired to do in those areas. Graves said National Grid is scheduled to replace almost 13 miles of Warwick mains this year. Statewide, he said, the company has scheduled to replace 50 miles of mains at a cost of $60 million in the same year.
“It’s [usually] stretches where there have been multiple reports of the smell of gas,” said Graves.
That’s not the only criteria. He said the type of pipe is a consideration. Steel and cast iron pipes are being replaced with plastic that are less prone to leaks because pipe joints are fused chemically instead of caulking. Age is another consideration, as well as whether other construction work is being done in the area.
Graves said National Grid is in contact with the municipality and other utilities to see if the work can be coordinated, thereby eliminating repeated excavations and allow sharing the costs.
“We ask what’s the long range plan for utilities. We do that all the time,” he said.
With the Warwick Sewer Authority looking at sewers in four neighborhoods, the prospect of coordinating projects could result in lower sewer assessment costs for property owners. Graves looked into one of those neighborhoods – the Bayside project that would bring sewers to Riverview, Highland Beach and Longmeadow – and, unfortunately, mains in many of those areas were already replaced within the last several years.
Generally, Graves said gas mains aren’t buried as deep as sewer and water lines, requiring only a narrow pavement cut of about three feet and minimal excavation. Most cuts are close to the curb and to the side of the main course of travel. The objective is to restore the road to the condition it was or better, said Graves.
David Picozzi, acting director of Public Works, has been especially sensitive to this issue and, in some situations, has refused to give approval to road cuts unless the utility is prepared to repave the full road. Picozzi could not be reached for comment yesterday.
In cases where the full road is going to be repaved, as happened in Providence’s scheduled repaving program, National Grid will purposely leave the strip repaving slightly below grade so that the finished road can be smoothed.
Graves said the company looks to replace “bare steel” customer service connections that were commonly used for installations during the 1950’ and 60’s. He said those pipes are subject to corrosion. Tying customers to the new service lines requires shutting off service and then, after it has been connected, relighting appliance pilot lights.
Graves said the transition from the old to the new lines takes about 15 minutes and is done at the customer’s convenience.