By Brandi Makuski
For the second time in three years, a part of a water main has burst just blocks apart on Church Street.
City crews were called to a section of the street near the Nevel St. intersection around noon on Jan. 6 after water was seen by a passerby gushing on to the roadway from under the ground.
“We were called in right away and there were no injuries or accidents,” said Stevens Point Police Sgt. Paul Piotrowski. “[Crews] got the a water off the street before it froze; we were lucky it was warm enough where we didn’t get a lot of ice right away.”
Both southbound lanes of Church St. were closed for about four hours on Wednesday as crews dug to located the problem- a cracked 18-inch section of two-inch-wide pipe. Once the broken pipe was cut out, it was replaced with sturdy PVC piping and reburied.
“That pipe is sturdy; the only thing it’s really susceptible to is UV rays,” said Gary Kuplic, water distribution superintendent for the city.
Kuplic added that section of the city’s underground utilities date back to the 1950s.
A different piece of the same water line broke during the harsh winter of 2013 in front of the BP gas station, about three blocks to the north of Wednesday’s incident. While the age of the piping is a factor, that section of pipe likely met its end thanks to extreme temperatures, Kuplic said, but the Nebel St. pipe burst during mild temps, with only about 18 inches of frost present. The water utilities in that section of town, he said, are buried about seven feet underground.
Southbound sections of the road will likely be closed for at least part of the weekend, Kuplic said, as crews repave the area.
“It’ll be shut down for at least a good couple of days,” Kuplic added.
A detour will direct southbound vehicles to Water St. via Nebel St.
“The patch will likely be temporary until it warms up enough where they can replace it, but that won’t happen until the spring,” Piotrowski said.
He added motorists should drive slowly through the area.“Over the weekend, we’re expecting snow; when gravel gets wet it’ll get kind of rough, so make sure you’re driving slow if there’s any kind of moisture.”
Kuplic said the utilities there were supposed to be replaced the with the now-defunct remodel of Bus. 51.
“And they still will be- if they ever do [the remodel] of 51,” Kuplic added.
Last year, former Mayor Andrew Halverson announced the massive Bus. 51 expansion project was “no longer a focus” in the city, instead moving the city’s resources toward building a railroad overpass on Country Club Drive. City leaders had been unable to gain mass public support for the Bus. 51 project, which proposed reducing parts of the roadway down to two lanes.
The overpass project, Halverson said, better represented a pressing need in another part of the city, where frequent railroad crossings held up traffic and impeded emergency vehicle crossings daily.
At that time, some former members of the city council questioned voiced concerns about replacing the aging infrastructure, and whether the cost to replace the pipes and simply resurface the road was feasible.
But AECOM, the engineering firm hired by the city to design the new Bus. 51 roadway, as well as engineering officials from the city, said that would cost the city more in the long run, saying it was only a temporary solution.
No decision has yet to be made on the future of Bus. 51, with Mayor Mike Wiza saying it is “not a priority”, and noting there were no plans to discuss it with the council anytime soon.