Issues arise when it’s time to upgrade aging infrastructure. Like any city experiencing a resurgence of downtown living and economic growth, the demand on infrastructure grows as well. Who’s impacted when it’s time to make upgrades? Citizens, business owners and government agencies are all affected. Here’s three tips for creating the most value when upgrading aging infrastructure.
Whether working with the unknown, or planning on executing a basic upgrade to existing infrastructure, prepare to be flexible.
“Unknown infrastructure conditions played a huge factor in the Cheyenne project in terms of design solutions,” Jardine says. “We had to work fast and come up with alternative solutions on the fly. Pardon the pun, but even for a storm sewer project, we really had to flow with the design.”
The 19th Street project included not only 120-year-old cast iron pipes but clay pipes as well. Some communities still have wood pipes in service. This meant the team had to be flexible in how they handled the upgrade as it was not a one-size-fits-all solution. After the discovery, the project team had to ensure the proper tools were on hand for contractors to deal with different pipe materials. This is critical to the timing of a project. Downtime is costly, not only for the City and construction contractors but for local business and traffic.
Flexibility matters when the project gets underway as well. Special or unique plans may also need to be crafted on the fly, depending on what is found during or after the field surveys.
The City of Cheyenne project dealt with a wide range of techniques and materials for utility piping. Flexibility in solutions was key as both dig and replace and cured-in-place rehabilitation techniques were used along different sections of the road. In addition, certain sections of 19th Street had minimal cover and very shallow depth for the new infrastructure, thus special elliptical pipes were used. These unique pipes required a depth of only 12 inches below the surface. Meanwhile, under the railroad tracks, excavations and new infrastructure was installed at depths of 24 feet.
When they’re digging up roadways for upgrades, some cities will opt for some additional work to prepare them for future projects.
The remedy for losing institutional knowledge
When expertise goes out the door, GIS can help replace knowledge with technology
Facing limited staff, budgets and potential loss of institutional knowledge, many organizations are taking advantage of GIS (Geographic Information Services) to get the results they need. From converting paper records to electronic to implementing a robust asset management system to analyzing complex data, GIS technology can help your organization capture and retain institutional knowledge.
Your city is destined for great things. With the right plan for aging infrastructure, you can get there. It is important to be aware of the unknown and the challenges that might surface. But with flexibility and an eye toward the future, your city can handle aging infrastructure efficiently and economically.
Scott Jardine, PE, is committed to partnering with clients to renew, replace and manage the infrastructure assets that help communities thrive and keep the world in business. Contact Scott