Fayette County

Sewer project to cause major traffic headaches on UK campus, Euclid for two years

A sewer line replacement on Euclid Avenue and Avenue of Champions through the University of Kentucky campus will take two years to complete and will cause major traffic backups and other headaches, Lexington city officials warned this week.

“It’s the most challenging project we have had to do,” said Charlie Martin, the director of water quality for Lexington. “It will be hard.”

The two-mile sewer line replacement will run from Oliver Lewis Way at South Broadway, down Bolivar Street, Winslow Street, Avenue of Champions and the length of Euclid Avenue to its intersection with High Street. It is scheduled to begin in late January.

The repair, which will require workers to construct tunnels under South Broadway and Limestone Street, has been a long time coming.

The existing sewer line was constructed in 1934 and is made of clay, Martin said. Photos taken by Lexington crews show gaping holes where the pipe has collapsed or has been compromised.

In addition, the expansion of UK means a much larger sewer pipe is needed to serve the campus of more than 30,000 students and the many businesses on South Upper and South Limestone streets and along Euclid Avenue.

Euclid Project.jpg
Starting in late January the city will replace a two-mile stretch of sewer pipe that stretches roughly from Oliver Lewis Way, through the University of Kentucky’s campus, up Avenue of Champions to the intersection of Euclid Avenue and High streets. It will take two years to complete. LFUCG

“It’s broken and it lacks capacity,” Martin told the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council during a Tuesday council meeting.

The sewer trunk line replacement is part of the city’s $590 million sewer and stormwater upgrades required under a consent decree with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency . Martin said the city received four bids for the project. Those bids were between $11 and $15 million. An exact cost will not be known until a contract is finalized.

Previous improvements included in the $590 million price tag include the construction of 10 wet weather storage tanks and the replacement of a sewer pipe on parts of Main Street and Midland Avenue, which took more than nine months to complete.

Martin said the sewer pipe replacement on Avenue of Champions and Euclid is behind schedule and was supposed to start prior to January. The delay was caused in part by the city’s efforts to find the best way to replace the pipe with the minimum amount of disruption.

“We spent a year and a half evaluating every possible alternative,” Martin said.

To replace a major sewer pipe near the University of Kentucky campus, crews will have to dig under South Broadway at Bolivar Street, which will impact traffic. It will take 60 days for that tunnel to be completed. The dates referenced in this graphic are just estimates. LFUCG

The easiest way to replace the pipe is putting it in the same location or on the same path as the current trunk line.

The line mostly runs on the south side of Avenue of Champions, Winslow and Bolivar streets. To replace it, crews will also have to dig under South Limestone and South Broadway. Both are state roads. Crews cannot cut open state-owned streets and must dig under them, he said. Plus, the city did not want to shut down the two major roadways.

The tunnel under South Limestone is tentatively scheduled to begin in late January and will take 60 days to complete.

That means Winslow will be restricted to one lane and Avenue of Champions will be restricted to one-way traffic towards Winslow. At the same time, another crew will start on Patterson Street near Oliver Lewis Way toward South Broadway. A third crew will be laying pipe on Winslow.

The city needs to get work done on Winslow first because UK is planning to build a new garage, retail and other space on the corner of Winslow.

The tunnel under South Broadway will likely start sometime in the spring of 2020 and will take 60 days to complete.

The plans call for two crews to replace the pipe and a third crew to dig, Martin said.

Hopefully by spring 2020, the crews will replace pipe on Bolivar Street and Avenue of Champions.

“Bolivar will be one lane for at least six months,” Martin said.

To replace a major sewer pipe near the University of Kentucky campus, crews will have to dig under South Limestone at Winslow Street and the Avenue of Champions, which will impact traffic. It will take 60 days for that tunnel to be completed. The dates referenced in this graphic are just estimates. LFUCG

“If we get behind schedule, it may be a good thing,” Martin said. “If we can replace that pipe on Avenue of Champions after early May when UK is out for the summer, it may go more quickly.”

But that could cause other construction back ups.

“If we can get to Rose Street and clear the center of campus by the end of 2020, we will be in good shape,” Martin said.

The city hopes that it can get to the end of Euclid Avenue at High Street before Christmas 2021, he said. The current plans include keeping the southbound lane closed on Euclid during construction. The center turn lane will be used as the southbound lane. Avenue of Champions becomes Euclid around Rose Street.

“That end of Euclid is very busy at Christmas,” Martin said of the Chevy Chase business district that includes many restaurants and local shops. “And they use the center lane for deliveries.”

Martin said they may change the schedule as time goes on.

The goal is to have the entire two miles of pipe replaced by January 2022.

Martin said there will probably be days crews won’t work, such as on UK move-in day and possibly UK graduation day. Martin said the exact start dates for each part of the multiple-pronged project have yet to be worked out.

“We will be communicating and giving people updates weekly,” Martin said. “But there will be significant traffic impacts in this area.”

Beth Musgrave has covered government and politics for the Herald-Leader for more than a decade. A graduate of Northwestern University, she has worked as a reporter in Kentucky, Indiana, Mississippi, Illinois and Washington D.C.