Work continues on downtown project to increase sewer capacity

Gary B. Gray • Mar 12, 2012 at 8:34 AM

Residents, visitors and passers-by have probably noticed an increasing number of bright orange signs downtown citing closed roads and downtown detours that guide motorists around the nearly $3.9 million Downtown Brush Creek Sanitary Sewer Interceptor Project.

On Friday, crews with Johnson City’s Thomas Construction Co. employed heavy equipment to make way for a new sanitary sewer interceptor that will run under the Norfolk Southern railroad tracks into Brush Creek. A large area is blocked for construction just off East King Street between Elm and North Roan streets for that purpose.

“The new line, which will increase capacity, is captured from the East Tennessee State University/Johnson City Medical Center area and will flow to the Brush Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant,” said Neal Whitten, Water and Sewer Services assistant director. “It’s a challenging construction project, because of existing rock in the area, dealing with the railroads and with street traffic.”

In November, Mayor Jeff Banyas signed off on the construction contract, and the project — which is not part of the city’s long-term stormwater plan — kicked off in mid-December. Substantial completion is projected for mid-September of this year.

“This does not deal with the city’s stormwater plan, but it does need to be done before any major stormwater work begins so we can be out of the way,” Whitten said. “This is the third major phase of interceptor replacement that’s been taking place over the years. We’re still working on future phases. The next logical phase will be to start to the east of Broadway Street and continue all the way to the Brush Creek Wastewater Plant. It’s a significant link to replace, but we have not determined if we will do it all in one project or in multiple stages.”

This interceptor project is a bond-funded replacement of an aging sewer line that is taking place mainly west of the railroad tracks downtown that run north and south. The existing interceptor will remain in operation with the new line serving as a substantial supplement.

An interceptor is a large-diameter sewer designed to catch flow in a large geographic area.

The projected route runs to the west of the railroad tracks downtown and follows East King, North Commerce and Lamont streets. It will include the placement of more than 3,600 feet of a 42-inch interceptor, more than 270 feet of a 30-inch interceptor, 2,400 feet of a 12-inch waterline, 22 manholes and extensive railroad work and permitting.

Johnson City’s Tysinger Hampton & Partners performed the engineering, and the contract resulted largely on approval of that design. These areas are served by two major wastewater interceptors that converge into a single line in the downtown area. The present line serving this is undersized and in need of replacement, especially in conjunction with the proposed drainage improvements in the area.

The project was identified in a 2008 study as a priority for the city. The existing sanitary sewer interceptor along Buffalo Street was one of the lines with capacity issues, and a 2006 evaluation showed portions of the line were running at nearly full capacity during dry weather periods.

Meanwhile, a bit of history was revealed early this week when crews working at North Roan and King streets unearthed trolley track lines dating back to the late 1800s. Much of the old line that supported the Johnson City & Carnegie Street Railway was removed long ago.

The railway was organized in 1890 and later replaced in 1902 by the Johnson City Traction Co., which repaired motors for trolleys serving the city from the early 1900s until 1930.

Trolley operation represented one of the many developments during the boom period in the 1890s to develop Johnson City as the premiere city of the South. The cars used to leave downtown and go to Carnegie by way of Roan Street and Watauga Avenue. At Carnegie, passengers could get transfers to take them to the lake by Oakland Avenue then dubbed Lake Watausee.

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