By Tom Shevlin
For the second time in two weeks, residents and business owners were briefed Wednesday, Dec. 19 on what to expect during the upcoming Broadway Streetscape Project during a special public meeting at City Hall.
The meeting, which featured dual presentations by the city's Departments of Public Utilities and Public Services, sought to calm fears that the project would cause an undue burden to businesses along the heavily-trafficked street and add to traffic congestion during the busy summer season.
Julia Forgue, the Director of Public Utilities, told those in attendance that plans currently call for construction to begin as early as April to replace a main sewer line and stormwater system that run beneath the roadway.
The project, which will stretch from Marlborough Street to Everett Street, is part of an ongoing city-wide program of water and sewer infrastructure upgrades, and is expected to be complete by June 2013.
Meanwhile, Public Services Director Bill Riccio reported that he's been coordinating with National Grid to ensure that whatever work they foresee being needed over the next several years be addressed during construction.
Although emergency repairs may require the road to be breached at any time, planners are hoping to offset the chances of the street being disturbed by being proactive while plans are still being finalized.
"There has been an extreme amount of coordination" with National Grid and the Utilities Department, Riccio said. "The plan is we do this once and keep the impacts minimal."
According to Riccio, if the water and sewer project is completed on schedule, his department would begin the above-ground work in the fall of 2013, minimizing the impact to businesses during the summer season.
Originally, the city had suggested that the project continue through July and August, however business owners expressed concerns during a introductory workshop last week.
Since then, the project schedule has been revised slightly, and now the plan is to have two crews – one on the south end, from Farewell to Marlborough, and the other from Gould Street to Bliss Avenue – work simultaneously on a pair of water infrastructure upgrades from April 1 until June 15.
Meanwhile, sewer work in the middle section of Broadway – roughly from City Hall to Equality Park – would also begin this spring and last through the summer.
"During the summer, the work will have as minimal an impact as possible," on businesses and traffic, Forgue said.
Homeowners are also being told that if they wish to upgrade lateral sewer connections that feed into the city's main, now would be the time.
In addition, Forgue noted that as part of the project, the city-owned sewer main will be shifted to meet privately owned sewer connections at the curb line. In addition to shortening the connecting span, the design is also expected to minimize future cuts in the roadway and thereby increase its lifespan.
Actual work on the Streetscape won't begin until after the sewer project is completed, sometime in the fall or spring of 2013, and won't be complete until 2014.
Riccio said "access to businesses will always be maintained."
As occurred during the Washington Square project, where and when necessary, the contractor will provide temporary walking routes. The city has pledged to keep businesses updated about what to expect during the construction.
To that end, both the utilities department and publics services are asking that anyone interested in receiving email updates about the project sign up on the city's website, www.CityofNewport.com.
The first bid award for the project is expected to be presented to the City Council during the second Feburary meeting, and the chosen contractor will hopefully start work no later than April 1.