FYI: Restore Biloxi projects and how they work

Here are some of the issues that frequently arise in Restore Biloxi projects, which are governed by FEMA regulations:

Before-and-after videos: Before beginning any work in a project area, and before final closeout of the project, the contractor must submit for approval a video of all assets to be impacted by the construction.

Water interruptions: Planned interruptions to water service will be infrequent and should have at least 72 hours advance notice.

Access: Access by residents, city services and emergency vehicles will be maintained throughout the project duration.

Relocation or “flipping” of services: As water and sewer mains are moved from alleys to more accessible rights of way, some services will be re-located or “flipped” from the rear to the front or side of a property.

Detours: Alternate routing of traffic will be employed as necessary to maintain traffic flow and access. Signage will be posted to show the route.

Driveways and sidewalks: Driveways and/or sidewalks impacted by construction will be replaced or repaired.

Grass: Grass disturbed by construction will be replanted with sewn Bermuda seed then mulched and fertilized.

Shrubs: Shrubs within the city’s easements and impacted by construction will be set aside. Replanting will be the homeowner’s responsibility.

What you will see in a typical project

Some people wonder why, in some instances, a contractor will work on one side of the street, cover the work and then return to work on the same street some time later. One of the biggest reasons for this is to try to maintain access for property owners and emergency vehicles.

Work would probably be quicker if roadways could be completely closed for weeks, but that would be unacceptable to emergency responders and property owners.

Here’s a detailed explanation – in four phases — of what you’ll see in a typical project and factors that impact construction:

Phase 1

1. Mississippi Department of Health regulations require that water lines and sewer lines be separated by a minimum of 10 feet horizontal and 18 inches vertical, making work on narrow streets difficult. Typically, the entire street will be excavated for these new line installations.

2. When a contractor begins work, work usually begins on sewer lines because they are the deepest lines. The streets are open cut so that the new sanitary sewer mains can be installed. Manholes and pump stations, if part of the system, are also built as these lines are being installed.

3. The new sewer services to each house are installed and connected to the new mains.

4. At the project area limits, the new sewer mains are connected to the existing mains.

The new mains and services are placed into service.

If possible, the old sewer mains are removed from the ground, as are the old services. If it is impractical to remove them, these lines will be filled with concrete and abandoned in place. This process continues systematically through a neighborhood until the entire sewer system is in place. Thus the contractor may move out of a particular block for a time only to return later to install the water mains.

Phase 2

When the contractor is ready to begin the installation of the water mains, he moves to the other side of the street (to maintain the minimum separations noted above) and begins work there. The existing water main and all service lines must remain in active service adjacent to the newly-installed lines, which causes limited access in many instances.

The new water services for each house are installed but not initially connected. New meter boxes are also installed at the edge of and within the city’s rights-of-way.

When the completed system is in place, the new mains are pressure tested, disinfected and connected to the city’s system.

The new water services are connected as the old services are disconnected.

At that time, the old water mains are disconnected and, where possible, removed from the ground.

Phase 3

With the sewer and water mains and services in place, the contractor will then mobilize to begin work on the storm drain lines. These lines are typically located on one or even both sides of a particular street. The existing lines are removed and replaced with lines that are often along the same alignment, since storm lines typically follow natural drainage patterns. To accommodate the city’s current drainage standards, the new lines are usually larger than those being removed. They are also often located along the back and sides of existing houses. In the case of the project near Kensington Drive, when you factor in the narrow streets and limited access, work is even more complicated.

Phase 4

13. Once the storm drain lines, storm inlets and junction boxes are in place, the contractor will begin to rebuild the curbs and streets, beginning with the base and working up through the final paving. If sidewalk replacements are part of the work they, too, will be installed at this time, along with driveways that were impacted during construction. This paving will be the last part of the work, as the contractor wants to have all of the heavy construction completed before placing new asphalt or concrete roadways.

Other factors that impact the construction process

In some instances, contractors have been forced to change sequencing. Instead of replacing the sewer lines first, the contractor has had to replace the water lines first and then the (deeper) sanitary sewer lines. This is due to the fragility of the existing water lines. Some of the existing water lines in Biloxi’s system are made of a concrete-like material called Transite.

This pipe ages poorly and even minor disturbances in nearby soil can crack or rupture the line. In some areas, installation of sewer lines has caused so many breaks in this Transite pipe that the contractor was forced to install the water network first, then returning later to install the deeper sewer — after the new water system was in place.

While this sequencing makes extra work for the contractor and slows down the construction process, it is still faster than having to stop work on the sewer installation to repair a water line break a block away from where the contractor is actually working.

Additionally, records regarding the location and depth of the existing infrastructure lines (water, sewer and storm) as well as of private utilities (gas, cable, phone and electric) are often incomplete, inaccurate or non-existent. This lack of reliable information can reduce the speed and efficiency of the construction process.