Gas-pipe road-work update: Puget Sound Energy explains

When we brought you some SDOT information earlier this week about the project that’s been tearing up roads in Fauntleroy (primarily Barton toward 35th) and now has moved east of 35th, we mentioned that we hadn’t heard back from Puget Sound Energy, whose gas line is at the heart of the work. We subsequently got a call from a PSE media person who couldn’t find our phone message but did read the WSB post – so she in turn connected us to another PSE person who had more details on the project. We have lots of new details now about what turns out to be work to replace almost two miles of old metal gas piping with plastic (as shown above) – read on for more about what’s happening, where, why, when (and how come there was no general announcement sent to news sources like us, to share with you):

Christina VerHeul from Puget Sound Energy says the work that’s tearing up Fauntleroy and, now, Westwood streets is part of PSE’s “bare steel replacement program,” now in the fourth year of 10 years of work to replace old unwrapped-metal gas lines with corrosion-proof plastic.

This particular pipe, she says, runs 9,000 feet (close to two miles) and dates back to 1929. “It’s very important we get it replaced,” she emphasized. “We’re doing the oldest, most corroded pipes first.”

And PSE has a lot of them – this year alone, VerHeul noted, they’ve done more than 70 jobs like this. The replacement (shown in the photo at the top of the post) is six-inch-wide plastic piping. “It’s an upgrade from what was previously in the street, and it’s a really good thing for the neighborhood – an increase in safety and reliability.”

She says they’re also replacing dozens of service lines that go to homes and businesses from the main line “if they were not already plastic.”

Now the big question — how much longer? While SDOT had an end date in early December, VerHeul told WSB, “We started in early October and are not expecting to be done until late December — we shoot for sooner rather than later, of course, but we will be done by December 31st.” She says the crews will not be working over the holidays, so anyone coming to visit for Thanksgiving or Christmas won’t have to wait for a flagger.

The work started at 45th/Director in Fauntleroy (map) and is continuing along Trenton east of 35th now that the line’s been replaced along Barton; 35th also is getting new piping between Roxbury and Trenton. Verheul says some other side streets might be affected as well.

We had two other questions: One, why wasn’t there some wider notification, like a general media announcement of this major project? VerHeul says the city requires them to notify “all the customers within one city block of the project” and that they complied with that. (We pointed out that it still might be a good idea in the future to assess a route for general impact and consider at least notifying local news organizations; she said she’d take that point under advisement, while pointing out they had done so with some larger projects, five- to six-mile pipe replacements.)

Next question: What about all those metal plates left behind? Here’s our dashcam tour of Barton, from Fauntlee Hills to 35th (sorry about the jerky turn at the end):

She said the dug-up roads will be repaired: “As part of a permit, we always are required to restore any damage we did to the street or the landscaping.”

Thanks again to Chas Redmond for bringing this project up in the comment thread about another road project – which led to this followup and our previous report. If there’s something you’ve been wondering about, or having trouble getting answers to, please e-mail us any time – most of our best stories start with inquiries like that!

3 Replies to "Gas-pipe road-work update: Puget Sound Energy explains"

  • furor scribendi November 21, 2008 (2:42 pm)

    The gas company contractor (Pilchuck) is currently tearing up my street. We didn’t receive any notification from Puget Sound Energy until the initial backhoe surprise. The only problem seems to be Pilchuck’s tendency to park their equipment on any available parking strip / lawn / drive or alleyway, which is only remedied after threats to tow their vehicles which I’ve had to do twice.

    My question: will PSE notify customers when their service will be down, a certainty while they switch to the new yellow feeder line, or will it also be a surprise?

  • WSB November 21, 2008 (5:38 pm)

    I asked that question to Christina VerHeul, and here’s her response:
    “As for service interruptions during this construction, I don’t believe customers will experience interruptions in service, however, in the event that interruptions are necessary, customers will receive notice several days in advance that includes a general estimate of how long their service will be out.”

  • furor scribendi November 24, 2008 (3:31 pm)

    Thank you, WSB, for your kind inquiry of Ms VerHeul and for reporting same.

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