A headache of gigantic proportions was avoided and motorist today are not facing problems driving down Homestead Road, especially near the intersection of Beth Stacey Boulevard.
Works at the East County Water Control District had a goal in mind: to replace the culvert that passes under Homestead Road at that location, which is near Coldwell Banker Real Estate. The water control district is in charge of repairing old culverts that move water throughout Lehigh. The culvert under Homestead Road had to be replaced, David Lindsay, the ECWCD's general manager said. But at other times when a culvert has to be replaced, the road above it had to be torn up in order for the work to be done and detours had to be set up.
If the Homestead Road project site had to be torn up in order for workers to replace an aging culvert, traffic problems would have been nearly impossible in Lehigh, Lindsay said.
Canal steel piper inserts read to be used in a project to push them through an existing culvert under Homestead Road.
But that didn't happen, but a new culvert has been created under the busy road and this week, workers are continuing to finish the job by using heavy concrete above the new culvert. And still Homestead Road remains open.
How many days the road would have been shut down would have depended on problems not seen when the digging would begin, Lindsay said. It could have been a week or more, depending on unforeseen issues.
But there was a better way, a new way, a process that has never been used in Lehigh before. Yet the new way seems so simple, but the work was still strenuous to make it an accomplished fact.
The culvert project located between Wedgeood Canal and Yellowtail Canal off of Homestead Road, at the Beth Stacey Boulevard intersection, is a rehabilitation project for the existing aging culvert.
Lindsay said his men were taking on a unique undertaking last week when crews pushed a large pipe literally under the road and this avoided traffic delays and utility issues.
During the replacement, workers from water control district pushed steel reinforced polyethylene resin through the existing corrugated metal pipe and then his week they are pumping flowable concrete fill between the two pipes to fill any voids.
Lindsay noted that the project saved taxpayers in Lehigh Acres around $100,000.
There are more than 370 culverts in Lehigh, many of which have been in place since the 1960s and 1970s. These older culverts are constructed of corrugated metal pipe that have been slowly deteriorating, said Carla Ulakovic, a community project specialist at the water control District which is located at 601 East County Lane.
Heavy equipment had been brought to the site and the heavy replacement steel piping was brought to the spot near the canal culvert, which is next to Coldwell Banker Real Estate on Homestead Rd.
Water moves through the canal to the more narrowly canal on the other side of Homestead Rd., behind developments along Beth Stacey Blvd.
The project is the first culvert replacement this year by the water control district. The work had to be done before problems arose above the culvert which would have crippled Homestead Rd. due to the old corrugated metal pipe deterioration. Lindsay noted that it was rated as a five on the critical culvert replacement scale that the water district uses to rate the conditions of existing culverts.
Workers had planned to do the work last Wednesday but when they took a closer look at the old culvert piping, they found debris and mud and work had to be performed to make it easy for the new piping to be pushed through the old.
The pipe size can be reduced because the ridges in the larger corrugated metal pipe slowed the flow of water, whereas the new smaller steel and plastic pipe has a smooth interior. Lindsay said this design will achieve the same rate of water flow underneath Homestead Rd.
Called the "sleeving project" workers were able to start pushing with the help of heavy equipment on Friday and after several hours, the new sleeving pipe was pushed all the way through.
After that, the next job will be to pump flowable concrete between the two pipes to fill any void that exists. That work began earlier this week.
Lindsay said the work took place and probably was not noted by any of the motorists driving over the new piping.
"This sleeving project will allow the water district to fully rehabilitate the existing culvert without shutting down or disrupting traffic on a very busy roadway, Lindsay said. He continued by saying there are other old culverts that need to be replaced, but they will use the same sleeving method and overtop roads will not have to be torn up and detours set up until the job is completed.
Others are being planned this year, using the sleeving method, Lindsay said.
He also said that typically, the district would totally excavate and completely replace a culvert this process works best in low traffic areas and those with fewer potential utility conflicts. He called the site of the work, "the nucleus of development and utility crossings for the community."
"The water control district recognizes that a compete replacement would have caused detours and could have encountered a number of underground utility conflicts like fiber optics, water, sewer, cable, natural gas, etc., which run over top our culvert. These factors would not only extend the timetable of the project, but could also drive costs up.
"The sleeving process is less invasive and will achieve comparable results without the need for additional closures," Lindsay said.
Because the sleeving project was done in-house with water control district employees, it was done for a cost of approximately $30,000 barring any unforeseen circumstances. According to Lindsay, a complete replacement for this structure on Homestead Rd. by a contractor would have cost between $125,000 and $175,000 and one of the best things of all, Lindsay said the sleeving replacement project has an expected lifespan of 50 to 75 years, which is comparable to that of a complete replacement.
Lindsay said that the completion of the project will likely take around two weeks, including pushing concrete through the gap between the sleeving and the old culvert piping, removing mud that has gathered and other things to finish the project.
The ECWCD maintains 370 culvert crossings, 22 bridges, 66 water control structures and maintains 1,298 preserve acres within 70,000 acres of land approximately 68,000 of these areas lie in eastern Lee County.
ECWCD's 311-mile canal system and 20 lakes flow into the Caloosahatchee River via four outfalls which include the Orange river, Bedman Creek, Hickeys Creek and the Carlos Waterway.