Edgebrook sewer project could snarl traffic for months
by KEVIN GROSS
A $5 million project in Downtown Edgebrook to replace sewers in Devon Avenue and some sidestreets could snarl traffic in the area for months with the first phase of the work beginning in mid December.
City Department of Water Management officials, engineers, a consultant and Alderman Margaret Laurino (39th) announced at a public meeting on Nov. 29 at the Edgebrook Library, 5331 W. Devon Ave., that the first phase of the 8-month project would include work in Leoti Avenue from Le Mai Avenue to Spokane Avenue, and in Spokane from Leoti to Devon Avenue. The second phase of the project, which would take up the majority of time, would be in Devon from Spokane to Caldwell Avenue.
"I know it can be difficult to go through major infrastructure projects like this," Laurino said. "But we really aren’t doing this to torture you. We genuinely need new sewers in this area."
The work in the first phase of the project will include replacing a 12-inch clay pipe with a 54-inch reinforced concrete pipe, according to project coordinating engineer Kevin Carpenter who also represents DB Sterlin Consultants.
The second phase is scheduled to begin in February and take about 6 months to replace a 42-inch brick pipe with a 54-inch reinforced concrete pipe, Carpenter said. The second phase of the project will take much longer because it involves complex engineering work including work under the Metra train tracks between Kinzua and Lehigh avenues near the Edgebrook Metra station.
"There’s always going to be access on Devon, except there might be a short closure when we’re first coming from Spokane to Devon, maybe a week or two where we might have to close down eastbound Devon and detour it for a short period," Carpenter said.
Devon Avenue work will be concentrated around the road median which will be removed and replaced, allowing for at least one lane of traffic in each direction throughout most of the project, according to V3 Companies project contractor resident engineer Ed Benesh.
Road closures are expected to take place on a rolling basis starting from east and southeast to west and northwest areas of the project, with sewer crews occupying a block to a block-and-a-half at a time and road repair following suit, Benesh said.
"What we’d love to do, we could get the concrete crews and start restoring the road right behind us too," Benesh said. "So maybe for a two to three block section, we could have what we call the ‘pipe train,’ with the restoration as the caboose rolling down the road."
The project is expected to reduce flooding for residents and businesses stretching far from the project area, including areas bounded by Caldwell Avenue to the north, Le Mai Avenue to the northwest, Tahoma and Hiawatha Avenues to the south, and Wildwood Avenue to the southeast.
Northwest households are slated to benefit due to lying on higher ground from the work areas, creating natural runoff flow to the new sewers, Carpenter said.
"It’s a very large area benefiting from what we’re spending," Carpenter said. "It’s a high bang- for-your -buck type of project."
Carpenter said that the project will be funded by a loan from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, and repaid over time with funds from the city’s water and sewer taxes, which were increased in the past years.
The area was chosen for sewer replacement due to numerous factors, which Carpenter said included modeling of high flood risk areas on a heat map, monitoring 3-1-1 records to gauge resident complaints, and accounting for a cost-benefit ratio. Benesh said that the old pipes were built in the 1930’s and require repair.
"In engineering terms, if you have a 100-year flood, it’s a 1 percent chance of that happening in a year," Carpenter said. "Those 100-year floods get worse over time. With all the continuous construction, there’s less permeable area for rain to go in, and it needs to go into the sewer system since less rain will seep into the ground naturally." He referenced a storm in 2012, which flooded a part of Albany Park, as a recent 500-year flood.
Some residents expressed concern about child safety due to a large amount of student crossings at the Devon intersection and Minnehaha and Central avenues.
Benesh said that there is the opportunity to bring extra traffic personnel from Chicago Department of Transportation, and that for past projects near schools they had "staging plans where our trucks came in and out of the neighborhood rather than parents going around to drop off kids."