The Arlington County Board voted unanimously at its Tuesday meeting to approve boosting an existing $17.5 million contract for the work to $23 million — a $5.5 million increase — due to some unforeseen circumstances.
In a report to the Board, county staff said that its contractor, Fort Myer Construction Corporation (FMCC), encountered a mysteriously out-of-place underground duct bank — the conduit through which utility lines are placed — on a segment of the undergrounding work from S. Greenbrier Street to the Four Mile Run Bridge.
(FMCC’s contract is for one segment, from the county line to Four Mile Run, of the overall project.)
The rogue duct bank was adjacent to Columbia Pike, where a new duct bank containing the currently above-ground utility lines was to go. The county says it’s investigating why the existing duct bank, which is owned by Verizon, was not under the roadway as records indicated.
Given that the lines can no longer be placed next to the roadway, they will have to go under Columbia Pike, county staff said. That will require more extensive lane and intersection closures and occasional weekend detours — thus the extra expense.
At last night’s meeting Board members pushed for much of the disruptive work to be done at night, to prevent a traffic nightmare along the Pike during peak times.
“This is going to be a mess,” said Board member Libby Garvey.
More from the county staff report:
A third segment, Four Mile Run Bridge to South Jefferson Street (Segment H&I), started construction in early 2018. During construction of this segment, a previously unknown existing underground communications duct bank was encountered which required redesign to relocate the new underground combined electric-communications duct bank, and results in this request to increase to the construction contract.
FMCC completed the first part of the new duct bank between South Jefferson Street and South Greenbrier Street without issues. The initial excavation for the segment between South Greenbrier Street and Four Mile Run Bridge uncovered an existing underground communications duct bank in the location planned for the new duct bank (Figure 1). This conflict resulted in a revised design that places the duct bank in the roadway, making the work more complex as construction must contend with heavy traffic conditions. The overall duct length has increased because the new duct bank must be routed around many existing utilities. Additionally, the project was delayed due to the time necessary to complete the redesign. A contract change was negotiated with FMCC for the additional cost to install the redesigned underground duct bank and return the project back to the original substantial completion timeframe. The result of negotiations was an increase of $5,500,000.
Construction that is part of this contract change will require additional lane closures beyond those currently in effect today. These will vary depending on the phase of construction and will be communicated to the public in advance. Some left-turn restrictions will be implemented in phases at intersections and driveways and some intersections will require closures and detours where the work will occur on weekends. Access to driveways will be maintained throughout the project area and bus stops will be temporarily relocated and consolidated when impacted by construction.
During the engineering phase of the project, records showed the existing communications duct bank was inside the roadway with sufficient clearance for the planned new duct bank. An investigation is ongoing into the reason why the existing duct bank was found to be in a location that interfered with the new duct bank and will continue concurrently with construction of the revised design.
Map via Arlington County. Kalina Newman contributed to this report.
(Updated at 1:50 p.m.) Three out of four lanes of Wilson Blvd in Ballston were blocked by utility work Monday morning.
The work, at the intersection of Wilson and N. Randolph Street, near the mall, was to replace a blown electrical transformer in a utility vault that’s in the middle of the westbound lanes of Wilson. Crews from Dominion Energy were on scene, along with a large, mobile crane.
We’re told the transformer went out Sunday, knocking out power to an adjacent apartment building.
All westbound lanes of Wilson Blvd were blocked approaching Ballston Quarter mall, while only one eastbound lane was closed. The lane closures caused minor backups during this morning’s rush hour.
Residents in the area have been complaining for years about excessive noise caused by vehicles — particularly trucks — driving over the utility vaults.
“The plates have been there for years, but starting in October 2018, they began making absurdly loud noises whenever cars/buses/trucks drive over them,” one tipster said in July. “Dozens of complaints have been filed on the county’s ‘reporting tool’ website… The result of the noise is that local residents at Ava Ballston Square, Origin Ballston, and other apartments are disturbed through the day and awakened at night.”
Today’s work is not expected to alleviate the noise issue. A Dominion spokeswoman noted that the vault itself is maintained by the owner of the nearby building, not the utility company.
“The grates are not ours and the work has nothing to do with replacing them,” a Dominion spokeswoman told ARLnow. “The grates top our underground vaults containing our transformers that serve the buildings along the street… Normally, you will see our transformers sitting at ground level or up high on a utility pole. The developer wanted them underground.”
As of 1:30 p.m., all lanes had reportedly reopened.
Utility work on the under-construction Mosaic Park will close a road in Ballston for the next three weeks.
County crews are closing 5th Road N. between N. Quincy and Pollard streets on weekdays from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. The closures kicked off yesterday (Monday) “to accommodate utility work” for the park and are set to wrap up on Friday, Aug. 16, according to an Arlington Alert.
The road is just south of the Gold’s Gym in Ballston, on the southern edge of Mosaic Park.
The utility work is the start of a long-planned effort to overhaul Mosaic Park, with a new playground, athletic court and water feature, among other upgrades. The park, once largely a grass field with some playground equipment, is currently fenced off and mostly mounds of dirt and construction equipment.
Have you seen Arlington utility workers feeding what looks like a giant flat worm into your neighborhood manhole?
The process is part of a project to repair sewers countywide. This week, you’ll spot workers on the 6000 block of 2nd Street N., and between W. Glebe Road and S. Fern Street on S. Glebe Road, according to Peter Golkin, spokesman for the Department of Environmental Services.
Above is a video that takes you down the sewer to see the process for yourself. The February video shows work on the four-mile “relief” sewer line along S. Glebe Road, which failed an inspection in 2015 because the pipe’s eroded interior. Digging up and replacing even 75 percent of the pipe could take up to a year and cost millions of dollars, workers said, which is why the county reuses pipes like this one by fixing the inside.
Workers feed a giant, flat polyester and fiber glass bag into sections of the pipe via the manholes. Then they heat up the so-called “cured in place pipe” with steam or hot water to cook resin in the bag. As the beat is “cured” for several hours it begins inflate around the interior of the pipe and harden.
The whole process takes about a day from start to finish and the newly outfitted pipes have an estimated lifespan of 50 years, per the county’s website. Relined pipes also have a better “flow capacity,” meaning they can move more sewage. But best of all, they prevent utility workers from having to rip up the streets.
“As you’d imagine, the savings in terms of money and time are substantial with relining,” Golkin told ARLnow. “At least half the cost, not to mention fewer months and traffic disruptions.”
Arlington hires contractors every year as part of a $16-million-dollar Capital Improvement Program to reline about seven miles of the county’s sewers.
Demolition has begun in preparation for the Nauck Town Center project, and the neighbors might not be the only ones buzzing with interest.
The building torn down last week is none other than the former home of about 70,000 honey bees, which the county relocated in July 2017 after realizing they had not only purchased a former office building but an apiary abode as well.
The aging building had only been vacant for about four months, according to the county, but about 100 pounds of honey were already generated by the time that local beekeepers swooped in to relocate move the hive.
The demolition is one of the final steps in the project’s first pre-construction phase. Utility undergrounding and site perimeter streetscaping will start fall 2018 and end spring 2019.
The second phase of Nauck Town Square project construction is scheduled to begin in the spring or summer of 2019 and wrap up by the winter of 2020. Pre-construction for phase two will begin spring 2018 and last through winter 2019.
The Nauck Town Center project, which has been years in the making, includes an open plaza, outdoor stage, public art, tables and seating and sidewalk improvements, along with displays about the history of the community, which was settled by free African-Americans in 1844. The design includes a large sculpture of the word “FREED.”
Photo courtesy Daniel Wanke
A majority of construction-caused natural gas line ruptures in Arlington occur despite excavators calling Miss Utility to locate underground utility systems prior to digging, according to the latest figures.
For fiscal year 2015, Washington Gas, the local gas utility that serves Arlington, reported 48 incidents of damage to its gas distribution system in the county. Of these incidents, 73% were caused by excavators, and, of those, 63% occurred despite the contractors calling Virginia 811, the state’s Miss Utility call center, prior to excavation, the utility said.
As recently as late July, a gas leak was reported on S. Fillmore Street in an Arlington neighborhood with a mixture of single family homes, duplexes and apartment complexes. Four blocks were shut down after the gas began to leak out. Reports suggested a construction crew working on the sidewalks ruptured a 3/4-inch gas line.
Digging damage to other underground utility systems like water mains and fiber optic cables also are common, though statistics on those incidents were not immediately available. Because of the combustibility of natural gas, utilities are required by the state of Virginia to keep records on gas line ruptures.
Employees with Arlington County’s water and utilities division ruptured a water main on Aug. 30 as they were doing excavation work on a residential street to connect a new water pipe to a house undergoing major renovations, causing an eight-hour water outage in the Highland Park-Overlee Knolls neighborhood.
The rupture occurred even though surveyors had come to the 22nd Street N. site prior to the excavation work to spray paint yellow, blue and other colors marking where underground utility systems were located.
The markings showing the location of the underground water main that serves a portion of the neighborhood were not accurate, according to county workers at the scene. The colors indicating the existence of an underground water line appeared to be at least three feet from where the water main was actually located.
Frustrated by the water main rupture, the workers complained that the mapping of underground utility systems is routinely inaccurate. Arlington County uses a contractor, Double H. Locates LLC, for locating and marking of the county’s water mains, sanitary sewers, storm sewers and county fiber optic lines prior to excatvation. For natural gas lines, Washington Gas contracts with UtiliQuest. Double H. Locates did not return calls for comment about the water main rupture.
“Most of the time our markings are accurate, but occasionally there are errors,” Arlington County Chief Support Engineer Dave Hundelt said about the water main damage. “We need more time to investigate this particular instance, but if we hit a utility that was marked, mismarked or unmarked we report it to that utility company and work with them to coordinate repairs to our respective utilities to get customers back in service as soon as possible.”
The science of locating underground utility systems using remote-sensing instruments and maps provided by utilities remains very challenging, even for the best firms, according to Michael Maguire, president of Accurate Infrastructure Data Inc., a Baltimore-based company that provides underground utility investigation, subsurface utility engineering, surveying and mapping services.
These locator companies recognize their work is not foolproof.
“The underground is a complex environment,” Maguire said. “The congestion of underground utilities or the weakness of the conductor that represents the underground utility line can lead to less-than-fully accurate locations. Even under the best of circumstances, with the most diligent practitioners in the field, you can get misled. You can get fooled and end up with a location that’s not a correct depiction of where the utility actually exists. There are those practitioners who are perhaps less careful.”
Excavators are reminded constantly to call Miss Utility before digging. The call center will notify utility companies when excavation work is proposed in the vicinity of their utility system and then each utility has the responsibility to send out surveyors to locate and mark the utilities on the ground.
Arlington County is a member of Virginia 811, a not-for-profit organization created by Virginia’s utilities. Virginia 811 has more than 600 utility members, as large as Verizon and Dominion Virginia Power and as small as water utility systems with only 20 or 30 customers.
The crew was digging in the area of Carlin Springs Road and N. Kensington Street, near the W&OD Trail, when they discovered eight PVC pipes labeled “ammunition.”
The county’s bomb squad investigated the contents of the pipes and didn’t find any hazards, according to Arlington police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck. The pipes were about four feet long and contained rifle ammunition, Sternbeck said Thursday morning.
Police cordoned off the area around the pipes but there were no traffic diversions.
The find comes just over a year after VDOT contractors found PVC pipes full of guns buried along Patrick Henry Drive, leading to an FBI investigation. The suspect in that case, Cherrydale resident Rodney Gunsauley, pleaded guilty and was sentenced earlier this year to 40 months in prison.
Sternbeck said the pipes “appear to be related” to the Gunsauley case, but the FBI is continuing to investigate the incident. The Joint Terrorism Task Force was also notified of the investigation, he said.
Gunsauley buried items in multiple locations and likely couldn’t remember all of the locations where he hid his weapons and ammo, Sternbeck said.
As of 9:30 a.m. on Monday, 27,586 Dominion customers were still without power, down from 59,000 at noon on Saturday. The company says it has 4,200 employees and contractors working to restore power to customers in all affected areas, but notes that the huge scale of the damage is making restoration a multi-day process.
“Many poles and cross arms need to be replaced, and other infrastructure needs to be rebuilt,” Dominion said in a press release.
Verizon says it’s working “around the clock” to restore phone, internet and TV service. According to spokesman Harry J. Mitchell:
As with most services in the immediate aftermath of the storms — a situation faced by more than a million residences and businesses throughout the Washington metropolitan area — Verizon has been making every effort to assess damages to its facilities and immediately had crews working to get services back online. However, due to extensive commercial power outages across the entire region, our crews have had to deal with a number of technical and mechanical challenges, in addition to storm damage such as downed poles and trees on our wires.
A power issue in one of our Arlington facilities has created several issues that we’re currently working through, including difficulty some callers are having when dialing 911 in Fairfax and Prince William counties. These counties’ 911 centers now are receiving most calls, and we continue to work diligently to restore full calling to them.
We’re working late hours — often around the clock — and bringing in additional technicians from other parts of our service area to assist in bringing service back as quickly as we possibly can. We appreciate customers’ continued patience as we work to restore services in the wake of one of the worst storms in recent memory.
Comcast, meanwhile, is also facing significant service issues in Arlington in the wake of the storm. Last night many Twitter users reported that their Comcast TV and internet service had gone out, despite it working earlier in the day. According to Comcast spokeswoman Aimee N. Metrick:
At this time it appears most issues are directly related to commercial power outages, and for the vast majority of people, service should be restored as power comes back on to their homes. However, given the severity of the winds and rain that arose from this storm, we are also seeing some more extensive damage caused by falling trees, poles and more that will take longer to repair.
We are working closely with state and local emergency personnel and power companies, and have employees working across the footprint to assess and repair damage in impacted areas once provided clearance that it’s safe to do so. We appreciate our customers’ patience and understanding, and will continue to work until service has been restored for all.
With temperatures again expected to climb into the 90s, Arlington County’s libraries and community centers are open today as cooling centers for those without power. Among the centers that will be open are:
- Aurora Hills Community and Senior Center (10am-3pm)
- Barcroft Sports and Fitness Center (8 am-10:30pm)
- Carver Community Center (9am-9pm)
- Charles Drew Community Center (3pm-9pm)
- Fairlington Community Center (8am-9pm)
- Gunston Community Center (2pm-9pm)
- Langston-Brown Community Center (9am-10pm)
- Lee Community Center (9:30am-6pm)
- Madison Community Center (9am-9pm)
- Thomas Jefferson Community Center (6am-10pm)
- Walter Reed Community Center (8am-10pm)
Arlington’s libraries — including Central, Aurora Hills, Glencarlyn, Shirlington, Westover — are scheduled to be open from 10:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. today. Yesterday Central Library and Shirlington Branch Library stayed open until 11:00 p.m. to accommodate those who lost power. According to the library blog, some 600 people were crammed into Central Library yesterday afternoon. The fire department also set up a temporary spray park at Central Library to help kids cool off.
The Cherrydale and Columbia Pike libraries are closed today due to lack of power. Also closed is the Lubber Run Community Center, the Long Branch Nature Center, some schools and some summer camps. See a full list of county closures here.
Dogma Bakery in Shirlington (2772 S. Arlington Mill Drive) is remaining open until 9:00 tonight and welcoming pets and owners who need a cool place at which to hang out. Owner Sheila Raebel — whose own house is without power — says she has set up chairs and tables after finding out that other cooling centers weren’t necessarily welcoming pets.
“We had people who were asking about it,” she said. “We found out the county… doesn’t have a place for people with their pets to come when it’s really hot. There are a lot of dogs who are older and a lot of cats who can’t live in a place where it’s 85 degrees”
The store’s Lee Highway location is currently closed due to lack of power.
Flickr pool photo by ddimick
Arlington County is preparing to move forward with utility undergrounding and street improvements along Columbia Pike.
The County Board is expected to approve a contract for work along a section of the Pike at its meeting this Saturday, May 19. The $5.7 million contract would go to Sagres Construction Corporation, and includes work from S. Wakefield Street to Four Mile Run.
Utility underground is the first phase of the project, to be followed by a variety of additions and upgrades. Some of the improvements include new bus shelters, traffic signals, bike racks, ADA compliant ramps, street lights, trees and wider sidewalks. That stretch of Columbia Pike will also be resurfaced with a new layer of asphalt.
County staff has been working to ensure customers have access to all the buildings along the affected stretch of road, as well as to public transportation. Lane closures and traffic disruptions should be expected during construction, but will be during non-rush times. Night work is also possible, which could create some construction noise.
A Department of Environmental Services spokeswoman said assuming the board approves the contract on Saturday, work should begin in July. It will take about 15 months to complete. Project updates will be posted on the county’s website.
The work has been on-going since late last night, after an underground cable was damaged by a contractor. Verizon says work in the intersection could continue through tomorrow morning.
“A contractor performing work to install traffic light control cables bored through one of our underground cables, affecting service for several hundred customers in the area,” said Verizon spokesman Harry J. Mitchell. “We will have to replace the damaged section of cable, and we’re preparing to do that. We hope to have all work done, and service restored to all customers, by 8:00 a.m. tomorrow (Oct. 7).”
Verizon crews are working in two manholes in the middle of the intersection. Water is being pumped out of one of the manholes and onto the street. Traffic is still getting by on each street in the six-point intersection, though some lanes are blocked.
Less than three weeks ago, Verizon phone and internet service was knocked offline for hundreds of customers in the Courthouse/Clarendon area when a contractor accidentally cut through several underground cables.