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Reconstruction on Second Street Southeast in Willmar delayed due to gas line issue

Due to unforeseen issues regarding the utilities under 2nd Street Southeast in Willmar, the reconstruction project of the roadway is taking much longer than the city, and residents, expected. The road will remain unpaved through the winter and temporary mailboxes will be going up to make sure the mail can still get through.

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The reconstruction project on 2nd Street Southeast in Willmar has faced lengthy delays due to a gas line problem. The project will now spread into 2023. Over winter the road will not be paved, instead will be covered in bituminous millings. Crews from Riley Bros. Construction have been out to smooth down the road, to prepare it for the cover. Driveways will also be smoothed over, to try and avoid any issues with residential snow removal. Shelby Lindrud / West Central Tribune

WILLMAR — The residents along 2nd Street Southeast in Willmar, between Becker Avenue and Olena Avenue, will have to live with living in a road construction zone for several months longer due to delays caused by a gas line. At Nov. 15's Willmar City Council meeting, the council unanimously approved amending the contract with Riley Bros. Construction to push back the final completion date for the project to June 2023.

The utilities and road work as well as the base layer of asphalt should now be completed by Aug. 5, 2022. The city prefers to wait a freeze cycle before laying the last layer of asphalt on a road, hence the reason the project won't reach final completion until June 2023.

"I support the change in contract timing," said Jared Voge of Bolton & Menk, interim city engineer.

Due to the utilities issues, Riley Bros, the contractor for the project, was unable to complete most of the work and lay the first layer of asphalt down prior to the end of the 2021 construction season. Instead, the road will be covered in bituminous millings, or ground-up asphalt, similar to gravel.

"It is a material that should stand up better to winter," Voge said. "Ideally it would have been paved. Here is where we are, we are trying to make do with what we have."

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Riley Bros. will groom the road for the millings, as well as smoothing and leveling driveways, to prepare them for winter. The contractor will also have to make sure the road surface remains in as good of condition as possible through the winter.

"They are going to have some maintenance activities on that street," Voge said.

The Postal Service is requesting that temporary banks of mail boxes be installed on the street because of the road and driveway conditions. This means residents will eventually receive their mail there, instead of in their normal boxes. Voge said residents will be told well in advance of the change.

"To ensure residents can get their mail and the postal service can access those mailboxes over the course of the winter," Voge said.

In addition, all of the utilities services have been reconnected and are functioning normally, Voge said. The sewer and water lines have been replaced on the southside of the project and the northside lines will be replaced next year.

The project, approved by the city council in January , was a complete reconstruction of 1,953 linear feet of the road. It included the replacement of the existing clay sanitary main with PVC, stormwater pipes and catch basins. However, when the asphalt was removed and the utilities lines located, an unforeseen problem arose, which caused the delays in the project.

In an interview with the West Central Tribune on Friday, interim Willmar Public Works Director Gary Manzer, said the main cause of the delay was problems with a gas line on the east side of the street. To hook up to the homes on the west side, connections ran across the width of the road from the main line. That posed a safety risk to both residents and construction crews during the project, because the sanitary sewer line being replace was located nearly 14 feet down, below the gas lines. The narrow width of the street also played a part, Manzer said, because it would make it difficult to avoid running into any of those gas lines when trenching into the street to reach the sewer line.

To avoid any dangers of hitting those gas connections, it was decided the gas line needed to relocated, Manzer said. CenterPoint Energy decided to install a second gas main, on the west side of the street, to eliminate the need for those cross street connections, Manzer explained. However, in the middle of a busy construction season, it took time before the new gas line could be installed and the connections moved. At the same time Willmar Municipal Utilities and Charter also raised their overhead lines, which will make it easier to use large construction equipment in the area, Manzer said.

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While the delays are unfortunate and have probably caused residents displeasure, Manzer said the issues with the gas line probably could not have been known ahead of time. It wasn't until the asphalt was removed and crews got a look at what was underground that the problems arose, similar to what happens when remodeling an old house.

The hope is, weather permitting, work on 2nd Street will start up quickly in the late spring.

"My assumption is they'll be right away in there in the spring, when Mother Nature allows," Manzer said.

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A gas line and its residential connections were the main cause of the delay in the 2nd Street Southeast project. CenterPoint Energy ended up installing a second line on the west side of the street and removing all cross street connections, that could have posed a safety hazard during construction. Shelby Lindrud / West Central Tribune

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