It was nothing short of a miracle that Manatee Avenue West was only shut down for three days, as opposed to the expected two weeks initially thought after a Frontier Communications contractor bored through a 10-inch water main on Aug. 2.
Public Works Director Jim McLellan said there was a lot more to the accident than what appeared initially. McLellan said when the drill hit the line, which was about 13 feet under Manatee Avenue, the drill went through the pipe, causing pressurized water to erupt out of both ends.
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The subsequent damage was not only to the street. McLellan said it also took out the two electrical boxes that operate the traffic signals at Ninth and 10th streets west along Manatee Avenue. The city was able to keep one light operating via generator and the second by connecting into the electrical outlet normally used for Christmas decorations.
The contractor, MCI, will ultimately be responsible for the cost of the ongoing repair. Tenth Street West remains closed at Manatee Avenue and McLellan said he hopes to get that intersection reopened by next week.
“Even when (Florida Department of Transportation) came out they said they’ve never seen anything like it,” McLellan said. “The problem was that in 2007 they directionally drilled that line so it’s required to go deep by FDOT standard. Because the bore went through both sides, you had flow coming out both sides, which is what took out Manatee Avenue.”
McLellan said it was an option to patch the pipe, “but leaving this one in place 13 feet deep with a patch is not acceptable and we are in the process of abandoning that line and tying it into our nearby 12-inch line. It’s not that we have to do that, it’s just that I’m not going to be able to sleep knowing there is only a patch 13 feet under Manatee Avenue.”
If the patch were to break, Ward 4 Councilman Bemis Smith pointed out, “Then we’d have to pay for it.”
While the city is incurring temporary costs in getting the work done, all financial responsibility for the project will fall onto the contractor’s insurance company. McLellan said representatives of the insurance company have been on site documenting the work.
As to an estimate?
“I have no idea yet,” McLellan said. “I’d just like to say kudos to our staff and our contractor Woodruff and Sons. Having a local contractor we can rely on is everything and to get that street open in three days is quite an accomplishment. Hopefully everything is completed by next week, but a lot had to be rebuilt.”
FDOT also will bring in a geotechnical firm to assess the light at Manatee Avenue and 10th Street West to ensure the mast holding the traffic signal was not compromised.