Traffic in the east end of downtown Lexington is about to get worse.
Work on a major sanitary sewer line replacement project near Main Street and Midland Avenue will start next week. The sewer replacement project that starts at the intersection of Elm Tree Lane and Main Street and will go up Midland to Third Street will cause traffic headaches for at least nine months, Lexington city officials said this week.
It will also mean the loss of parking on one side of Main Street, the closure of Short Street from Eastern Avenue to Midland and intermittent lane closures.
The replacement of the sanitary sewer pipe in that section of town is part of a nearly $600 million stormwater and sewer overhaul required as part of a settlement with the Environmental Protection Agency. The more than $6.4 million Midland and Main project will take about nine months to complete, said Charlie Martin, the head of the city’s division of water quality and acting commissioner of Environmental Quality and Public Works .
Short Street from Eastern to Midland closed Monday. The street is a popular and well-traveled short cut through downtown for drivers trying to avoid Main and Vine streets. Drivers are now being diverted to other streets.
Crews will begin digging a more than 19-foot trench for the new sewer pipe on that section of Short, Martin said.
At the same time, crews are scheduled to begin working at the corner of Elm Tree Lane and Main Street. The northbound lanes of Elm Tree between Main and Short will be closed for as long as two weeks, Martin said. Construction crews will then work on Main Street, where the parking lane and at least one lane of traffic will likely be closed after 9 a.m.
Work on Main Street will continue for at least 30 days, Martin said.
Work will then continue up Eastern Avenue to Short. Eastern Avenue between Main and Short will be closed during that time period, likely starting sometime in September.
The pipe will go under Midland at Short Street. A new pipe will be placed on the side closest to the Lexington Herald-Leader in what is now a bike lane. However, one or more outbound lanes of Midland will likely be closed during construction, which probably won’t start until late fall, Martin said.
“The reason why this was not done before was because this is hard,” Martin said of the sanitary-sewer replacement on Main and Short. “We are doing this balancing act of traffic needs verses what we need to do to get those new pipes in place. We want to do this quickly but we have to do it right.”
The work will also be noisy.
The city doesn’t plan to blast or use dynamite to dig the trenches needed to replace the old clay sewer pipes. Instead, contractors will use equipment that creates constant noise as they dig and excavate rock. The equipment used will make sounds similar to jack hammers, Martin warned.
“The digging will start next week and will continue in various areas for the next nine months,” Martin said.
The digging will start at 7 a.m. and will stop by 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
Susan Straub, a spokeswoman for the city, said the city asks not only for people’s patience but asks that people continue to patronize businesses on the affected stretches of Main and Eastern.
The intersection of Short and Midland will likely look different once the project is completed. The plans include eventually putting in a traffic light and cutting off the multiple turn lanes and islands that currently make the intersection confusing and dangerous for drivers and pedestrians alike.
After the sanitary sewer project is completed, work will start in 2019 on Town Branch Commons, a downtown trail that will connect the Town Branch Trail to the Legacy Trail at Midland and Third.