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Tunneling problems to blame for sewer project cost overruns

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    Seen from a drone, a trench will be dug across Main Street at the East Toledo end of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Bridge starting in late September to build a pipe tying the new International Park Storage Basin to the Main Street sewer main using the chamber that already has been built on the roadway’s north side.

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    Richard W. Boers Dr., the road through International Park, has been closed intermittently during construction with the new sewage basin in the park's southeast corner.

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    Project Engineer David Selhorst speaks at a 2017 press conference at the site of a new Downtown Storage Basin to be built on the western bank of the Maumee River near downtown Toledo.

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    Seen from a drone, work continues on the connection near the foot of Nevada Street between the new sewage basin in International Park and the sewer main along Nevada.

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Tunneling problems have added more than $2.5 million to the price tag for an underground sewage tank and connecting pipes and pumps in International Park, a project official told Toledo City Council during an agenda-review meeting this week.

After hearing the presentation from Julie Cousino, the program administrator for the Toledo Waterways Initiative, council appeared poised to approve expanding the city’s state loan for the work to manage the overrun.

Councilman Sandy Spang, chairing the meeting, accepted a recommendation that the $2,560,810 matter be handled during the full council meeting next week as an emergency measure, rather than have the formality of three readings before a vote.

Ms. Cousino said a tunnel-boring machine working beneath Richard W. Boers Drive at the park’s south end last year encountered three different unknown pipes 25 feet below the surface that brought its work to a halt.

The pipes’ presence forced two “recovery shafts” to be dug to remove the machine from the tunnel, after which use of underground boring for that tunnel and another to be dug toward Main Street was abandoned.

Instead, Ms. Cousino said, the large pipes to connect the International Park Storage Basin with sewer mains at Nevada and Main street are being finished using open trenches, which will extend the project past its prior September completion until late November.

The use of open trenches also is why Main will close just east of the Martin Luther King, Jr., Bridge on Sept. 24, effectively closing that bridge to traffic until early November.

The Main Street end of Boers Drive also will be closed during that time, so traffic to and from The Docks restaurants will have to approach them from the south.

While several councilmen asked Ms. Cousino detailed questions about the construction, none challenged the need to borrow more money to finish the work.

“I hope we’re documenting everything we find” so that the added construction costs can be recovered from whomever the unmarked pipes belong to, councilman Nick Komives said.

“Some of the pipes were unidentifiable. ... But when we can go back to an entity, we certainly do,” Ms. Cousino responded

The International Park complex is part of the city’s huge campaign to reduce its raw-sewage discharges into the Maumee River and other local waterways by at least 80 percent.

The program’s total cost was most recently estimated at $527 million and includes numerous other underground tanks to hold sewage-laden rainwater when storms swell flow in city sewers, including one recently completed in Joe E. Brown Park and another still under construction along Summit Street north of downtown Toledo.

It also includes upgrades to Toledo’s sewage treatment plant, but even with those upgrades the plant is incapable of handling peak flow during storms.

Contact David Patch at dpatch@theblade.com or 419-724-6094.

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