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Project Targets Flooding

To these Alexandrians, a drought was a blessing.

After 20 years of dealing with a flooded living room nearly every time there was a heavy rain, residents in the 800 block of South Pitt Street are on their way to drier times. That will be the end result of an estimated $5 million storm sewer project now underway in Old Town.

"This is a health and safety project as well as a flood relief project," said Emily A. Baker, P.E., city engineer for the Alexandria Transportation and Environmental Services Administration. "About 20 homes have been periodically flooded over time."

This periodic residential swamping is due to the combined sanitary and storm water sewer lines that were laid many years ago along an area known as the Tanyard Ditch. It is a 200-acre watershed stretching from Cameron street to the Beltway and from Henry Street to the river.

This project is intended to relieve flooding in the area of Pitt and Gibbon streets. It is designed to construct a stormwater outfall line from that area to the river just north of Fords Landing.

"We started the design phase five years ago. We awarded the contract to Fort Myer Construction Company of Washington in January," Baker said.

Primary elements of the 15 month project include:

* Remove sections of the existing Tanyard Ditch combined sewer.

* Construct a new combined but separate sewer for storm water and sewage

* Construct a new outfall structure with channel improvements to carry the storm water to the river

The new line will follow Gibbon Street, from the ponding area to the river, in six stages with completion scheduled for May 2006. Preliminary construction commenced in mid February.

"I've been waiting 15 years for this. I had extensive damage two years ago when I had to put in all new floors in the living room area because they were completely ruined," said Penny Saffer of 522 S. Pitt St. "I've lived here 20 years and I've had two 200-year floods in this house."

Her relief that the project was finally underway was shared by L. Liddle, 526 Pitt St. "We've lived in this house since 1975 and during that time we've been flooded three times. Each time we've gotten three to five inches of water in the first floor," he said.

"We've learned to deal with it. When we hear a big storm is coming we move furniture and rugs. In the back yard it has gotten as deep as three feet," Liddle said.

"What seems to bring it on is a short period of very heavy rain. The pressure in the sewer line has even blown off the manhole covers. The city characterized it pretty well when they said 'it happens when we get one inch of rain in 20 minutes,'" he said.

"We've kind of gotten used to it at this point. But, it will sure be good to have it fixed," Liddle said.

THESE FLOODING experiences are more on the line of flash floods rather than the traditional flooding that occurs along the river after sustained rains, according to Baker. "To fix the problem is a major construction undertaking," Baker said.

"There will be noise, traffic changes, and street closing periodically throughout the project. But, we will work to be good neighbors," she said.

"We will have a full-time resident inspector assigned to this project. He will be available to answer resident questions and deal with problems. Explanation flyers will be distributed throughout the life of the project," Baker said.

With major construction located in the immediate area of Lyles-Crouch Elementary School there was concern for the noise level. "We have agreed not to do a lot of work during school test days," she said.

Overall there are approximately 500 acres of Old Town Alexandria that have combined water and sanitary sewer systems, according to Lucky Stokes, P.E., division chief, Construction and Inspection at the city's Transportation and Environmental Services Administration. "Utilities are now in the process of being moved. We are making sure residents know when things must be turned off for a short period and when there will be interruptions in sanitary sewer service," he said.

OVERALL 10 designated "Work Areas" will progress on various schedules with overlapping time frames. Some common project details include:

* Construction work hours will be 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday; 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays; and no work on Sundays.

* There will be periodic parking restrictions enforced for construction and equipment during business hours. Resident off-street parking arrangements will be provided on evenings and weekends during those times.

* Contractors will use the area east of the parking lot in Jones Point Park as a staging area.

* A construction trailer will be located in the 500 block of South Union Street, across from Windmill Park, throughout the project.

* There will be tree removal at the river outfall site.

* A minimum of one lane traffic will be maintained within the construction area at all times throughout the project.

* Alleys may be closed to traffic and parking during work hours.