West Allis — A second year of ripping up West Allis streets has begun for a huge construction project that will both replace an aging gas line in the city and bring enough natural gas through to enable the Menomonee Valley power plant to switch from coal to gas.
The $29.8 million project would have been done even without the power plant switchover, said Brian Manthey, We Energies spokesman. Many of the gas main sections being replaced are vintage 1949, according to the company.
"Even if we were not to convert the plant, it's a project we would have wanted to do," Manthey said.
Replacement was stepped up because of anticipated additional demand in the Menomonee Valley related to business development.
The new huge gas pipe will go all the way through West Allis from east to west. The basic route will be on Cleveland and Arthur avenues with some jogs involving National Avenue, Beloit Road, Filmore Drive and 84th and 72nd streets. Two major connecting pipes will also be laid between Cleveland and Lincoln avenues. Those connectors will be along Highway 100 and 92nd Street.
Much work was done last year, and Peter Daniels, West Allis principal engineer, said, "It disrupted a lot of people on Cleveland." For example, the front driveway to Target at Cleveland and Highway 100 was closed for six weeks, he said. Customers entered instead at the Highway 100 and National Avenue entrance.
All in all, "it's been a big thorn in our side," Daniels said.
He said the city isn't looking forward to construction season this year either because one of the connecting pipe is going into busy Highway 100.
"Working Highway 100 will be a huge challenge," Daniels said.
Estimated start for that part of the project is May 1. Work will be done at night because two northbound lanes must be occupied by work crews. During the day, one of the lanes will be reopened. Work is expected to be completed within four weeks.
Not only must the Highway 100 project be done at night, but it must be done delicately because there are so many other utilities underground that there is barely enough room for the big 30-inch gas main, Daniels said.
With water mains, fiber optic lines and sanitary and storm sewers, "it's pretty crowded under there already," he said
While Highway 100 work won't start for weeks, construction is already in full swing on the other connector on 92nd Street. There, the We Energies contractor occupies the median lanes the entire stretch from Cleveland to Lincoln.
Work this year also involves Cleveland Avenue to the western city limits. That part of the project actually involved pulling the main underneath Root River where it crosses Cleveland.
Travelers along the more westerly section of Cleveland Avenue are seeing work equipment occupying the north half of the street from 124th Street almost to Highway 100. Pipe installation is anticipated to be completed there by the end of April.
Also in full swing this week is work at National Avenue where the eastbound lanes were to be restricted at Interstate 894. The traffic impacts are expected to be minimized by scheduled overnight work. However, Cleveland Avenue will be closed a day or two just east of the I-894 bridge with detours set up.
By the end of the year, the project should be basically finished with only a little work in the area of 68th Street left to do next year, Daniels said.
Through it all, We Energies has been very accommodating, he said. For example, the project cleared away just in time for the Nathan Hale High School production of "Grease."
The We Energies customer operations section contacts people along the work route to see what's going on and tries to adjust the construction schedule to minimize disruption, Manthey said.
The contractor tried to get an early start this year, but the bitterly cold February weather stopped work on many days. One of the main issues was the pipes could not be warmed up enough for welding to hold them together, Daniels said.
GAS PIPE ROUTE
The major gas line that is being installed in a three-year project will follow this route:
From the We Energies gas station property in the 2600 block of 124th Street in New Berlin south on 124th to Cleveland Avenue, taking that east to National Avenue where it will turn northeasterly on National Avenue going to the We Energies property east of Interstate 894.
It will travel south again on We Energies property back to Cleveland Avenue. Then it will head east on Cleveland to 84th Street, jogging north on 84th to Arthur Avenue. It will take Arthur east to Beloit Road and that northeasterly again to 72nd Street, taking that south back to Arthur Avenue.
Heading east again on Arthur it will turn northeasterly again on Fillmore Drive to Hayes Avenue where it will turn east and head to the east city limits. The gas line continues east on Hayes to 51st Street in Milwaukee, then north on 51st to Lincoln Avenue, taking that east.
Two gas lines will branch off of the major Cleveland Avenue line and head north to Lincoln Avenue. One branch is at 92nd Street and the other will be at Highway 100.
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