May 15, 2018 - This afternoon, Mayor Tom Henry joined business leaders from the Industrial Park area and City Utilities staff to break ground for the construction of a new water main on Directors Row and Secretary Drive. The new pipe will replace an eight-inch, 1961 cast iron pipe that has seen 17 water main breaks over the past five years.
“Investing in infrastructure is critical to the current and future success of Fort Wayne,” said Mayor Henry. “Meeting the needs of businesses in our community demonstrates our commitment to being a community that’s viable and attractive for job and business growth.”
“Unfortunately, almost anywhere you drive, in our community and throughout the country, you see a patched street showing evidence of a water main break. While we’ve been able to reduce the number of water main breaks in our community – we are still having more than 250 per year,” said Kumar Menon, Director of City Utilities. “The businesses along Directors Row and Secretary Drive know the impact of aging infrastructure all too well. We appreciate their patience and trust they know things will soon be better.”
The new pipe being installed is 12-inch diameter high-density- plastic pipe. Eight fire hydrants and 19 service connections between the water main and businesses will be replaced. When complete, this project will reduce the number of unplanned disruptions caused by breaks and will benefit public safety by increasing fire flow capacity in the area.
“Technology has improved, and the new plastic pipe is not only strong, but it also offers the flexibility to withstand changing ground temperatures from a freeze, to thaw and even drought conditions. This is a pipe that will better serve the community in the years to come,” said Matthew Wirtz, Deputy Director of Engineering for City Utilities. "We are committed to making improvements that will serve our customers well during both normal operations and in the case of extreme conditions."
The contractor, Lawnscape Land Management, Inc., will use horizontal directional drilling, which causes less interruption than traditional open-trench construction and will keep roads open to traffic during construction. However, construction equipment and materials in the area may cause some inconveniences.
City Utilities’ water distribution system currently includes 1,403 miles of water pipe; 355 of those miles are beyond their useful life. While some of our pipes are more than 100-years-old, age is not the only factor that determines when a pipe should be replaced. Cast iron pipe, like the current one on Directors Row, is part of a thinner line of pipe that was manufactured and installed from 1940-1970. Many of those pipes are in need of replacement due to their deteriorated condition.
“We have been aggressively studying a wide variety of solutions to replace these pipes without breaking the bank. It’s a delicate balance, but we believe we are close to a plan that can support daily maintenance as well as address the replacement of pipes ignored for generations,” said Wirtz.
At today’s bid prices, it’s estimated that to replace all of the 355 miles of pipe that is beyond its useful life would require about $188 million.
“Tackling pipe replacement has not been a priority of past generations. The out-of-sight, out-of-mind mentality is no longer acceptable. Customers want a more reliable system, but we must be sensitive to the financial obligations customers face,” said Menon. “We need to find creative ways to save money while increasing investments to ensure our systems are reliable.”
The Directors Row project is expected to be completed by September of this year and represents an investment of $236,720.