The Waco City Council has approved $2.8 million in infrastructure improvements on Peach Street in East Waco, just the latest in a massive list of infrastructure projects recently completed, underway or in the works.
The work approved Tuesday night, which will support planned development along Peach Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, is part of the Building Waco Capital Improvement Program, funded in part by bonds and by incremental water and wastewater rate increases. City water utilities spokesman Jonathan Echols said thirteen of the infrastructure projects under the program have been completed, and the city still has a long way to go.
Before work starts on Peach Street, crews will start work replacing water lines from Sixth to Ninth streets, primarily in what is known as “Banker’s Alley” between Austin Avenue and Washington Avenue.
“This has been on the list of things we need to do for a while, probably since 2016,” Echols said. “When the last master plan was done, this was identified as something we needed to do.”
Echols said the pipes are aged, and their proximity to other infrastructure makes them difficult to work on. Echols said the project could last about months. Pavement will be removed, and there will be lane closures day-to-day.
“For the folks who have businesses there, I’m sure it’s going to seem extensive to them,” Echols said. “I don’t think anything is going to be completely closed off.”
As the work starts downtown, crews are wrapping up what they hope is the final repair of a sewer line along Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard near Herring Avenue and the Brazos River. The broken line led to a sinkhole in 2015, and the line broke again nearby last year. A portion has been replaced, and another portion has been repaired from the inside. Sinkhole repairs cost $4.9 million and were split between the cities served by the Waco Metropolitan Area Regional Sewerage System.
“Because of where it is, the water table has risen over the years,” Echols said. “As dams were built and waters rose, the water table went up and the ground became less stable.”
Workers had to drill small wells to pump out water continuously.
“Over the course of two years, we had maybe three sinkholes,” Echols said.
The line is now in use, and crews are planting grass and adding sidewalks to the area.
A $12 million project to install smart water meters for every customer in the city also hit some unexpected delays. The city discovered about 3,200 meters had been incorrectly installed and had to be redone; a subcontractor was short-handed at one point; and the main contractor had trouble bringing in enough meters for the project, Echols said.
Work on new ground-level water storage tanks and a pump station on Hillcrest Drive started in 2017 and is wrapping up. It is one of the first projects on the Building Waco docket, and the pump station is already in use, Echols said.
A 5-million-gallon tank that supplied all of Waco in the 1920s has been replaced by two 2-million-gallon tanks, he said.
“That makes us able to be a little bit more flexible and efficient,” Echols said.
Demolition and replacement of a water tower on Owen Lane cost $3,300,000, and the new tower is in use as the project wraps up, he said.
“There was a tank there, I think it was about 60 years old,” Echols said. “It was going to cost more to repair and repaint it than it would to replace it, because of where it is and what had to be done.”
The city inspected a sewer line along the Brazos River’s west bank and decided to hold off on improvements. Operations supervisor Mike Norman said the project is not urgent.
“There’s no areas that are about to collapse. It’s nothing like that,” Norman said. “We just definitely need some work to be done to give us another 50 years worth of sewer pipe.”
Echols said a completed $3.5 million project to replace water and wastewater lines on 26th Street was not identified as early on as some of the other projects, but when the city scheduled road resurfacing on 26th Street, it moved to the front of the line.
“We never want to redo the street, then come back and say ‘Oh, I kind of wanted to replace that water line, but we just redid the streets and now I have to tear it all up again,’” Echols said.
New waterlines along Warren, Spring Valley and Richie roads are slated to cost $2.2 million. Echols said the city of Waco took over service to the area from the city of Hewitt.
“The whole project was forming this loop of new waterline in this area, which it desperately needed,” Echols said. “The lines there are very undersized for the area.”
One of the largest projects on the list has been in progress since last year: $42 million project to rebuild a sewage transfer lift station, install a gravity siphon line across the Brazos River and add a force main from the station to the central Waco Metropolitan Area Regional Sewerage System treatment plant. Buildingwaco.com hosts a webcam that tracks progress on the massive undertaking.
“It is the station where all of the sewage goes, from Waco, from Robinson, from everywhere, then it gets pumped to the plant for treatment,” Echols said. “It’s super important.”