A Plant Grows Near the 'Burgh

Reconstruction of Routes 17C, 26 Finishes Ahead of Schedule

Thu January 25, 2007 - Northeast Edition
Mary S. Yamin-Garone



In spite of a strict contract requirement to deliver the road to the public every evening — translation: no overnight closures — the reconstruction project involving West Main Street (Route 17C) and Nanticoke Avenue (Route 26) in Endicott, N.Y., finished ahead of schedule. And that is good news for the approximately 17,000 drivers who travel the corridor daily.

The two-year venture, began in the spring of 2005 and wrapped up in December. Those involved will tell you that was no small feat.

“The project contains every conceivable improvement,” explained Athan Gyftopoulos, the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) engineer-in-charge, “because [all of] the aging systems that were in service were inadequate. That is why, in cooperation with the town and village, DOT decided to move into new water lines and sanitary sewer lines.”

The project called for the reconstruction of Routes 17C and 26 in the Village of Endicott and the Town of Union. Work begins at South Grippen Avenue and Route 17C, proceeds east on West Main Street then north on Nanticoke Avenue, ending at the south end of the bridge over Nanticoke Creek.

Roadwork included installing new storm drainage and making considerable improvements at the railroad bridge, such as constructing new retaining walls adjacent to the abutments. The only work required to be performed on the bridge itself was painting.

“Some abutments adjacent to the roadway were spaulding due to excessive salt repairs [having been] done there,” reported Gyftopoulos. “Because it is an underpass, the pump house was rehabilitated. The system, installed in 1936 or 1937, just could not keep up any more so new pumps, auxiliary generators and controls were added. Now water is being pumped all the way to Nanticoke Creek, which is approximately a .5 mi. Before that was done, an out-pond detention pond was constructed to ensure the trout creek would not be contaminated.”

What could have been a major setback to keeping the project on course were the heavy rains that plagued the area in June, washing out a portion of nearby Interstate 88.

“We were lucky. The flooding really did not affect this project,” recalled Gyftopoulos. “We tested the pump house 10 days before the floods so we were pumping the water pretty well. It was dry; the underpass was dry. There was, however, a washout from a bank that destroyed about 30 meters of sidewalk.”

The $9 million project, spearheaded by Vacri Construction Corporation of Binghamton, N.Y. , was offset by state and federal funds. Because bicycle lanes were improved, 80 percent of the costs are supplemented by the federal government.

Public Input Important

The project work zone was located in DOT’s Region 9, which includes Broome, Chenango, Delaware, Otsego, Schoharie, Sullivan and Tioga counties. In keeping with that region’s strong commitment to community involvement residents’ input was important. To solicit that input, public hearings were held throughout the planning and development stages and during some of the preliminary construction.

“Residents proposed several changes designed to bring out the character of the village,” said Gyftopoulos. “DOT found their ideas to be worthwhile so they were implemented. As a result, there is decorative [stamped color] concrete, ornamental street sign posts and antique lighting in the village’s historic district. The [historic] district begins at the village boundary on West Main Street and ends at Jennings Street and Nanticoke Avenue.

“The facing around the bridge also has decorative accents resembling stone. Of course, as engineers we are more interested in strengths, but we have received positive comments from residents and the public that drives by.”

Challenge Found in Complexity

Several aspects of the project proved challenging to Gyftopoulos and his staff.

“Urban, village projects — especially in such a developed area like Endicott — have a complexity inherent to them. Water and sewer services must be maintained to residents and businesses while the new system is being installed. There is a point when both systems are operating while the new one is tested,” said Gyftopoulos.

“For instance, the new water system needed to be checked for pressure and then meet all of the Department of Health requirements. The old one could not be removed until we received a clean ’bill’ from the Health Department. Then we deliver and can move ahead with the construction and take down the old system.

“Sanitary is relatively easy because it is all gravity. We tie to the residents and businesses as we go and the work must be tightly scheduled. The contractor sets reasonable targets for their crews and everyone works to achieve that. Another big concern for the contractor and DOT was the abundance of utilities — gas, cable and underground electric.”

Scheduling presented another challenge.

“The contractor is responsible for a project’s [scheduling],” said Gyftopoulos. “If it’s reasonable we approve it. If the contractor pursues the project diligently, we cooperate. Coordinating utilities when they have obligations — either public or municipal — also can be challenging. Municipal utilities were very helpful with this project. There were times when we couldn’t get them to relocate a main as soon as we wanted but they responded well.

“Another concern can be if you prepare for one subcontractor and they cannot make it on a particular day because they are delayed at another project. In such cases, the prime contractor responsible for the project’s maintenance might have to take an additional step. It can be costly but generally they [contractors] work out the differences themselves.

“We were fortunate with this project. Because of its complexity and significance [from the public’s viewpoint], DOT staffed it with experienced, seasoned inspectors. They provided answers, help and guidance to the contractor quickly whenever it was needed. That’s important,” said Gyftopoulos. CEG