Relief In Sight: Work Will Be Expedited On River Street In W-B
WILKES-BARRE — The closure of a main thoroughfare in the city has been a nightmare for some business owners and drivers, but they should see relief in about three weeks.
Wyoming Valley Sanitary Authority’s project, which involves installing a new 30-inch diameter wastewater interceptor line beneath North River Street, was initially expected to take six to eight weeks to complete.
Donna Gillis, Wyoming Valley Sanitary Authority spokeswoman, said the work is now projected to be complete by the end of October.
“In addition to inclement weather, we’re facing challenges pulling new pipe through the existing lines, including working around abandoned utility lines that remain in the ground,” Gillis said. “We are doing our best to complete this project as soon as possible.”
The sewer work has closed the busy stretch of North River Street between Maple Street and Courtright Avenue for the last eight weeks.
As a result, C.W. Mesko Glassworks owner Sandra Mesko said business has declined about 75 percent. People have to come from side streets to get to her auto glass shop on North River Street and it looks like a “ghost town,” she said.
“It’s so frustrating,” Mesko said. “It’s aggravating because we’re a busy shop and business was good and this just completely set us back. If it wasn’t for the phone, I don’t know what would happen. Walk-in services are done.”
As the work continues, Mesko said, “It’s terrible. It’s so depressing.”
“It’s a nightmare and beyond,” she said. “Sometimes you don’t even want to come to work but you have to be here for the people.”
Wyoming Sanitary Authority officials met with Wilkes-Barre City officials on Tuesday, and Gillis said WVSA understand their concerns and have asked the contractor to add more manpower and work hours so the project timeline is less impacted.
City Operations Director Butch Frati said he understands the project is “a very difficult job to accomplish. But we felt we weren’t being informed enough (about the obstacles faced by the contractor). This was more of a fact-finding mission.”
Frati said he’s heartened authority officials are encouraging the contractor to bring in additional crews.
Frati said he, city Administrator Ted Wampole, fire Chief Jay Delaney and police Commander Joe Coffay met with authority Executive Director Jim Tomaine, site coordinator Ralph Bush, engineer Brent Berger and authority board member Phil Latinski, a former city councilman.
Wampole said the meeting went well.
“We made it clear that we’re upset with the pace of the project,” Wampole said. “Our biggest concern is ease of access to (Wilkes-Barre General) Hospital and the small businesses in the area that are suffering.”
North River Street has been closed from a point just south of the entrance to Wilkes-Barre General Hospital.
WVSA is working on providing more clear access to North River Street via side streets from North Main Street for emergency services, Gillis said.
Hospital spokeswoman Renita Fennick said all emergency vehicles have been finding their way to the trauma center and emergency department.
“Fortunately, none of our patients have had to cancel appointments or procedures because of the road closure and detours,” Fennick said.
Before the construction project began, Fennick said hospital officials advised employees to seek alternate routes to the hospital and to allow more time for their daily commute.
Physician offices and telephone operators also have been providing patients and callers with alternate routes from key locations, she said.
People can still access Wilkes-Barre General Hospital from the north from North River Street and from the south from North Main and West Maple streets.
Tomaine said the contractor, Doli Construction of Chalfont, still has about 170 linear feet of pipe to install. The project calls for the replacement of about 1,000 linear feet.
While that is being done, the contractor will have additional crews that will start concrete work on the northern end of the project near the hospital and then on the southern end by Courtright Avenue, he said.
Tomaine said the pipe to be replaced is 18 to 20 feet deep in some areas and trench work must be done during daylight hours for safety reasons. But the contractor will work overnight when possible. “One night, they worked 36 hours straight,” he said.
Tomaine stressed the amount of utility lines — some of them abandoned and some unidentified — that were installed over the sewer line significantly slowed down work, and leaking water mains as well as rain slowed the pace even more, as the water had to be pumped out of trenches before work could proceed.
Tomaine said he’s spoken with many business owners in the area and he said it’s “unfortunate that this is causing them some issues.”
“By the same token, we’ve made sure that all businesses are accessible. I understand some people, especially senior citizens, not wanting to deal with the traffic issues, but the contractor is doing their best to get the job done as quickly bas possible,” he said.
“We’re sorry for the inconvenience, but it’s something that happens once every 50 years,” Tomaine said. “The pipe needs to be replaced. We had no other options.”
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