Tuesday, December 20, 2011

TOP STORY >> Shovel-ready work: Look when you dig

Leader editor

Residents of the Sunnyside neighborhood in Jacksonville are breathing easier now that the relocation of utility lines is nearly completed before the start of the Graham Road widening project.

Workers digging underground have disrupted phone, water, sewer and power lines. But they’re almost done now and the road work will start soon, promising a whole new set of problems.

Who knew that a shovel-ready project meant workers digging into the ground and tearing up utility lines? At least they didn’t blow up any natural-gas lines, which could have leveled the entire neighborhood, along with the meth labs that are known to dot the neighborhood.

A meth lab was busted there about the time the utility work began. Workers probably smelled chemicals and contacted police.

The widening will add two lanes to Graham Road between Loop Road and the railroad tracks. The low bid for the 1.14-mile-long project was submitted by Township Builders for $3,350,500.

Work will start early next year and should be completed in the fall.

Federal stimulus money is paying for 80 percent of the project, while the city is footing the rest of the bill.

The outages have delayed the project, according to state highway officials, who are overseeing the work with Jacksonville officials.

People have had their utilities out for several hours, although the phone company has been quick to respond.

CenturyLink sent repairmen out to The Leader two days in a row when the lines here were cut twice within 24 hours.

The contractor never apologized for its mistake, although that might be a language problem.

That’s not to knock the mostly Hispanic workers. They were looking at maps of the neighborhood and advised caution.

Some blamed their American bosses, who didn’t seem to know or care where lines are buried.

Whatever happened to “call before you dig”?

The road work will bring crews close to people’s homes. Many residents will have their front yards ripped up and won’t even have room to park their cars.

Most lack driveways and the city has banned parking on streets.

Homeowners have received compensation for giving up their property, but what’s a fair price for losing your front yard?

Where will they park their cars? In the back or down the street in the old 7-Eleven?

But let’s not knock stimulus money, especially if the work is completed on time and no one gets hurt: At $3 million a mile, it’s not exactly a bargain, but maybe it’s worth losing one’s utilities for a few hours.

In the meantime, watch out for leaning utility poles. There’s one at the end of Graham Road. Stimulus money may not pay for your hospitalization.