Sewer Project Set in Tisbury

Leaders Release Four-Phase Plan for $10.2 Million Sewering, but Frigid Weather Puts Start Date in Question

By CHRIS BURRELL

The construction crew hired to build Tisbury's $10.2 million sewer system was supposed to break ground next Monday, but now there's one more problem and another likely delay: The ground might well break their shovels if they tried.

After more than a week of polar temperatures that sent Island thermometers plunging, the roads in Vineyard Haven might just be too frozen, the frost too deeply embedded, for backhoes to make a dent, according to Tisbury town administrator Dennis Luttrell.

Meanwhile, the town also released a schedule yesterday, detailing a four-phase timeline for finishing the project over an 11-month period while trying to minimize the impact on the Island's biggest year-round business district.

Mr. Luttrell is expected to find out today whether work crews can actually commence digging Monday or push the schedule back two weeks and try again in mid-February.

"This would be doable if we didn't have such cold weather. Any other winter, we wouldn't have this," said the town administrator. "Once every 10 years, we get this, and we just have to work around it."

The project has already been thrown off-schedule by a variety of developments: delays at the state permitting level and troubles with the engineer that led selectmen to switch firms last fall. The town had hoped to start construction last October.

But Mr. Luttrell said construction managers have assured him they can make up two weeks lost time and still clear out of Main street by mid-May. According to the four-phase construction schedule, work crews plan to take one block of Main street at a time, starting first with a middle chunk between Spring and Centre streets.

During all of the next four months, motorists can expect delays and detours as crews shut down parts of Main street to do the work of excavation and laying of both sewer and water pipes.

Here's how the official schedule looks as of yesterday's press release: After installing pipes on Evelyn Way and Pinetree Road for a three-week period, work crews will start digging up that middle block on Main street.

That move alone will completely upend motorists' understanding of traffic flow and one-way streets. Detours will send them the wrong way on a one-way street, driving up Spring street all the way to Franklin street and back down Church street, then turning right on Main street.

In all three turns, drivers will be going against the grain of usual traffic flow on those streets. That maze of detours - dubbed phase one - will last three weeks.

In phase two, the entry to Main street will be closed for two weeks while crews dig up the first block as far as Spring street. During this phase, drivers will be routed all the way to Pinetree Road along the cemetery, down Spring street, over Franklin and onto Centre street. That phase will also send drivers the opposite direction down Centre street, which normally flows away from Main street.

Phase three is expected to last three weeks as construction takes over the block between Center and Church streets. The detour will be much shorter, guiding drivers up Centre street, over Franklin and back down Church street.

Finally, in phase four, the work will focus for about three weeks on Church street and the upper reaches of the Main street business district up to The Bagel Authority.

"The town will endeavor to minimize the inconvenience to the public and the business community during construction, but delays should be expected and planned for," Mr. Luttrell wrote in his statement released yesterday.

The town also urges people to use the town Park & Ride parking lot and public transit system. Some parking spaces in the town lot next to the A&P will also be taken during the construction period, according to the press release.

Mr. Luttrell said Tisbury officials have watched the Oak Bluffs sewer project closely and learned a few things. That project was completed in the spring of last year after numerous delays, cost overruns and some controversy.

"There will be no green boxes all over the place," said the town administrator, referring to the flap in Oak Bluffs over electrical panel boxes placed all over downtown, infuriating residents of historic neighborhoods.

A pump facility will be housed in a wood frame building near the police station. The town, Mr. Luttrell said, is trying its best to hide the visual impact of the new wastewater system.