After some unexpected delays, construction on Lake Street is set to wrap up early next week and regular traffic to return to the roundabout. (Photo/KCAW)


After some unexpected delays, construction on Lake Street is set to wrap up early next week and regular traffic to return to the roundabout. KCAW’s Katherine Rose tried to figure out why the project ran beyond its September deadline and what citizens can expect once construction is complete.

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At the corner of Lake Street and Sawmill Creek Road, construction scheduled to end in September continues to redirect traffic and fill the air with the sound of machines.

The Lake Street project began late this summer, funded by a 1 million dollar grant from the State Department of Environmental Conservation to replace both water and sewer lines and rebuild the road. Senior Engineer Dave Longtin wrote the grant proposal for the project. This section of Lake Street has been giving the public works department a lot of grief.  

“The water main is 50 years old, and we’ve had 4 or 5 breaks in the last three years, just in that one section,” says Longtin. “The sewer main wasn’t built deep enough to provide adequate flow from some of the houses that the sewer main is supposed to accommodate.”

This led to occasional sewage backups for houses on Kinkead or Hirst, another problem that needed solving. With money from the state, the crew set to work in June but were met with some unanticipated challenges. With the road’s proximity to Swan Lake, they had to frequently pump groundwater out of the excavation site.

“In so doing we encountered several pockets of contaminated soil, which really slowed the process down,” Longtin says.  “Diesel-educated guess here, but it’s probably leaking out of underground storage tanks from when there used to be several houses there instead of Swan Lake Terrace.”

Normally dealing with a contaminated soil site is pretty straightforward. But because of the groundwater filling the site, the process for analyzing and removing the contaminated soil became more complicated, and the project came to a grinding halt.

“We can’t pump contaminated water into Swan Lake. We had to collect it, send it to Juneau, then ship to Ohio. And this whole time the project is at a complete standstill,” says Longtin.

Resolving these issues impacted the overall cost. The city is currently negotiating with the contractor. As of Friday (10-06-17), they plan to be finished with the curb and gutter. Then it’s time for the paving to begin. “I anticipate we’re going to pave Lake Street on Monday,” says Longtin, before pausing. “Early next week. Monday I hope.”

This data displays the average shelf life of a pipe. (Photo/City of Sitka)

Once that’s done, the road must cool to 100 degrees, which typically only takes a few hours. Then Lake Street will be open to the public again. As for the pipes? They’ve replaced a metal water line with a plastic pipe made of high density polyethylene…a relatively new product, with a long lifespan. “I wouldn’t anticipate any problems with the water or sewer for 30, 40, 50 years,” says Longtin.

So in a half-century, year 2067, be ready to replan your route to work. It could be time for the pipes under Lake Street to be replaced…again.