Downtown streets get makeover

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By MIKE EDDLEMAN

Liberty Hill has a long-term plan for upgrading streets and utilities in a downtown area in desperate need of work.

Each year, the staff puts together a plan that then goes to the Council for approval, and this year’s work is focused on Grange, Munro and Barton streets.

“We budget a certain amount as we look at projects we want to get accomplished,” said Public Works Director Wayne Bonnett.

This year’s budget is right at $400,000, being funded by the street maintenance tax, which brings in about $165,000 annually for such projects, and bond funds earmarked for the work.

The most visible work so far this year is the replacement and upgrade of a waterline running down Myrtle Street.

“They have already bored under Loop 332 and are running from there down to Church Street,” he said. “They’re replacing an old two-inch line with an upgraded eight-inch, which will provide fire protection in the area.”

The line on Myrtle from Barton east to Loop 332 has already been completed.

Much of the utility work is to both replace aging pipes, but also to increase capacity for fire flow, a critically needed upgrade throughout the community.

“That’s why we came in with an eight-inch,” Bonnet said. “The City has said from this point forward we are not putting in anything smaller than eight-inch lines. That way we get the fire flow throughout the City we need. It’s hard to do when you have smaller lines running because you can’t get enough volume.”

The minimum size to be able to have a fire hydrant is a six-inch line, and the City is installing a number of new hydrants downtown.

“This is all to tie in to the work to improve fire flow throughout the City,” Bonnet said.

Once the utility work is completed underneath each of the streets in the plan, they will be paved.

The new paving will include Myrtle from Loop 332 to Church, Grange from Barton to Loop 332, and Munro from Loop 332 to Stubblefield.

But each road will have utility infrastructure upgraded first.

“One of the big challenges that we have is the infrastructure underground is old,” Bonnet said. “So if we come through and put a brand new street in, if we have a leak we have to dig it back up. So we’re doing this systematically to where that piece of line is totally new so we don’t have to come back and dig it up.”

One example of preventative work being done is replacement of a six-inch asbestos cement water line, which runs down Barton and under Munro, that Bonnet says is older but doing it’s job. To mitigate future issues with the work on Munro, though, a portion of the older line is being replaced under the intersection.

“Not only are we replacing 100-feet of AC (asbestos cement) line here, but we are also improving the drainage through this area where Munro and Barton meet, because it seems to be a problem with the way the water flows through,” Bonnett said.

While the projects being completed each year seem limited on the surface, making sure that new utilities and new roads happen together are critical.

“Along with that we improve the utilities that go through the area so that we don’t go back in a short time later and have to upgrade utilities,” said City Administrator Greg Boatright.

Once the paving is complete, the City will add ribbon curbing.

“We’re putting in ribbon curbing on the streets,” Bonnett said. “One, that will help hold the asphalt and keep everything together, but it’s kind of hard to put curb and gutter in when we don’t know where the water needs to go, but we’re working toward that. It just takes time.”

Bonnet expects most of the utility work to be completed within a month, with the paving to follow.

“Some of it is dependent on the weather,” he said. “If conditions aren’t right they’re not going to put the asphalt down. But they are going to go through and get all the utilities done, then come back and look at doing the asphalt. The time frame is hard to judge but I would suspect the utilities would be finished within the next month.”

There are always curve balls when digging up aging infrastructure.

“We ran into quite a few surprises we weren’t expecting, but it’s things that, working in a city that has the age this one does, are problems you are going to run into. You have different contractors that put pipe in different ways a long time ago that are being updated and we have to take care of now. It’s a challenge.”

Boatright said the streets program shows progress in the community each year.

“We’ve made a lot of progress on our street rehab program,” he said. “To me, this is one of our more popular things we do. Our citizens get to visually see change in our community when it comes to street rehab, sidewalks and various things that go along with our program.”

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