If you feel like you are taking your life into your own hands when you drive along East U.S. 52 on Walnut Street in Portsmouth, you are probably not alone, but relief is in sight, and according to the Ohio Department of Transportation, resurfacing is just a couple of weeks away.
“They are still doing the sidewalks and the curb ramps,” Kathleen Fuller, public information officer for District 9 of ODOT, said. “My understanding is that right now we’re looking at probably about the second week of August.”
It appears a series of events has brought about the current unbearable driving conditions.
Portsmouth City Manager Derek K. Allen said ODOT notified the city of Portsmouth of their intention to resurface U.S. 52 Eastbound in 2016. In reviewing the infrastructure that would be under the newly paved street it was revealed that there was approximately 2,100 feet of eight inch water line that was in terrible shape.
“How wasteful and disappointing it would have been to have ODOT pave U.S. 52 and then cut the street to repair watermain breaks underneath the pavement,” Allen told The Daily Times. “It was determined that this project needed to be done before ODOT let that project begin. In February, the city of Portsmouth began replacing the watermain in a rushed fashion because ODOT was bidding the project in April. The gas company was also down on Walnut Street conducting their line replacement prior to the ODOT project.”
Distel Construction was hired to lay 2,100 feet of the eight-inch watermain. The city of Portsmouth purchased the watermain and Distel’s expense was for the labor to install. The cost for that labor was $49,900.
“A sixth-ward citizen that lived on that section of Walnut Street (U.S. 52) came into the city Manager’s office and said that he heard from a city councilman that there had been problems on this project and that the City of Portsmouth had to fire the contractor,” Allen said. “This was absolutely false. Distel did great work, as they always do, and helped the City of Portsmouth out by rearranging their project schedules and being available on very short notice.”
Allen said the city of Portsmouth Water Distribution crews came back afterwards and made the 74 connections or taps into the new watermain. He said the lead-pipe connections that were replaced were replaced with safer more modern pipes. All of this work tore up a street that was in very poor condition to begin with.
“While the City of Portsmouth was connecting the water taps ODOT bid and awarded the U.S. 52 project,” Allen said. “While city crews were frantically attempting to make the new connections the contractor and ODOT called to inquire when the city would be out of the way because the contractor was getting ready to start.”
Allen went on to say the city finished their project and instead of trench repair, another practice of past city administrations, his administration would have done a full lane or full roadway overlay. However, he said they anticipated the contractor immediately coming through and milling off the pavement so the city did not invest in pavement repair.
“Again, what a waste of taxpayer dollars that would have been,” Allen said. “However, now that it appears that it may be some time before the road is milled down the city is applying patch to this section of road.”
Fuller said, once the work begins, traffic will be cut down to one lane at a time until the paving is completed.
“It will be slow moving through there but we will keep one lane open,” Fuller said.
Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.