By BRIAN BOHNERT
Columbia Gas of Ohio is nearing completion of its pipeline-replacement project that began this spring in Fostoria.
Jason Copsey, external affairs specialist for Columbia Gas, said crews recently replaced the main line from Elm Street to Tiffin Street going north and south, and the main line from Perry Street to Countyline Street going east and west.
Additionally, he said workers plan to finish the service lines this week with the main-line crew returning to retire the old system within the next two to four weeks.
The entirety of the project has involved replacing main lines, gas meters and service lines in the 10-block area from Countyline Street to Wood Street.
“We’re getting really close to completion,” Copsey said.”The majority of the paving work is finished, though there’s just little left to do. So, once crews come back in the next few weeks to retire the old system, we’ll be looking at wrapping up restoration shortly after that.”
The company began work April 16, closing the easterly northbound lane of Countyline Street between North and Elm streets in order to replace cast iron pipes with new, specially-designed plastic lines for enhanced durability underground.
Copsey said the new pipelines will have a longer shelf life and a better ability to flex with changing soil conditions. Their only weakness, he said, are direct sunlight and digging equipment that could cause damage.
The project, which came at a cost of $1.6 million, is part of a 25-year, $2 billion investment across the state to systematically upgrade all Columbia Gas pipelines.
While there is likely to be more work like this done locally in the future, Copsey said this is the only project Columbia Gas currently has slated for the city.
During a public hearing May 6, Michael Schwieterman, construction services manager for Columbia Gas, said the company has replaced roughly 160 miles of pipe per year since 2009, with all steel pipes set to be removed from Ohio streets within the next 15 years.
Once the project is complete, Schwieterman said Columbia Gas will begin paying property tax to the city on the pipelines, which will most likely go toward the local school system. As far as how much residents have to pay toward the work, he said everyone in Ohio has already been paying $5 a month since 2009 towards the statewide initiative so all residents of the state can share in the cost equally.
“Things have gone very smoothly. Weather has cooperated and we’re on schedule,” he said. “We’re extremely grateful for the patience of the residents and the cooperation of the city administration.”
Despite a few traffic-related headaches along the way, Mayor Eric Keckler said his initial concerns about lane restrictions and back-ups along Countyline Street was put at ease. He commended Columbia Gas and its crews for making the work thus far as minimally invasive as possible, and said he has not fielded an abundance of complaints come through the office.
“They’ve done really well and they’ve certainly been cleaning up after themselves,” he said. “Overall, I think the project is going well.”
However, Keckler said anyone with questions or concerns regarding the pipeline-replacement project should call City Engineer Dan Thornton at 419-435-9775 so he can contact Columbia Gas right away.
During the May hearing, Copsey said the timetable for completion of the project as a whole was late-August. As of Wednesday afternoon, he said that is still possible as long as mother nature continues to lend a helping hand with pleasant conditions.
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