Gas pipeline replacement part of aging infrastructure improvements

By Gene Petriello - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - The change in weather from one day to the next, leaves utility workers worrying about potential gas line breaks.

About a week ago, a major break caused parts of Forest Hill Avenue to close for hours.

It's problems like that, which could happen in your neighborhood. But, the city is working to fix the problem.

Richmond is currently the second oldest city in the nation. It also has the second oldest infrastructure in the country. That includes, aging gas cast iron pipelines, that are at a high risk of bursting, especially in the cold temperatures.

Work is underway right now on the north side of Highland Park. That area, along with The Fan, Downtown and other parts of the city are priority area's to get the aging pipelines out of the ground.

People who live and work in Highland Park -- like Henry Johnson -- are glad crews are hard at work, getting rid of the old cast iron gas pipelines, some of which are more than 100 years old in parts of the city.

"It's good for the community to see their money is being used for their own personal needs," says Johnson. "Second oldest city in the nation. It needs to be done!"

"As the city grows and expands, the pipe does not do what it needs to do. We want our infrastructure to grow with the city," says Angela Fountain with the Dept. of Public Utilities.

The replacement project, is a 40 year venture, that's about half way done. The goal is to make sure problems like the one at Forest Hill Avenue, don't happen again.

The city knows, scenes like this, could play out again in the coming days and weeks.

"We know there may be a spree, if you will, because of the materials of the pipes," says Fountain. "We're just making sure to monitor the situation and address problems as they occur."

Each year, the city puts in 19 miles of these new pipes. This years' fiscal budget for the project is about $10 million. In the remaining 20 years of work, there is still about 400 miles of pipe to replace.

"The length of time is just something you have to live with," says Johnson.

But with the good, comes the bad for Johnson. "It doesn't appear to me they are doing a very good job in replacing the asphalt. I see a lot of holes that need to be refilled," he says.

We're told from Public Utilities, once they replace the line, they turn the project over to Public Works, which puts the road on a schedule to be permanently paved.

The pipeline on Forest Hill Avenue dates back to 1966 and it was not on the city's list for replacement in the near future. "Compared to pipes that 100 years old, that pipe was not old," says Fountain.

"Things need to be done, things need to be replaced. Hopefully the city is going to take the initiative to get it done in a timely manner," says Johnson.

The work in Highland Park continues day in and day out, to replace all the old pipelines. Then, it's onto the next neighborhood.

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