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Proposed council policy could speed up future city construction projects

The $10 million Commerce Street construction project began in August 2020 and is expected to be completed in March 2023.
Joey Palacios
The $10 million Commerce Street construction project began in August 2020 and is expected to be completed in March 2023.

District 1 Councilmember Sukh Kaur recently unveiled a new policy proposal she said would prevent costly months-long delays on city construction projects, pointing to lagging projects in her home district on St. Mary’s and Broadway.

The Council Consideration Request (CCR) said the city’s lack of solid information about subsurface utility infrastructure has led to delays when construction runs into sewer or gas lines they didn’t expect.

“We’re not spending enough time on the front end doing diligence around where everything is, making sure that there are as accurate drawings as we can possibly get for contractors before they start digging up asphalt,” Kaur said.

To address this, Kaur’s policy would have the utilities — SAWS, CPS Energy, and others — pay to establish what are called as-built documents that would detail where all of their underground infrastructure is and then make those documents available to the city in the planning stages of new city construction projects.

Under the policy, the city would also verify utilities’ as-built documents by using a technology such as Subsurface Utility Engineering (SUE), which would allow the city to identify what’s going on underground. The utilities would reimburse the city for the expense.

Kaur said the reason the city has not already done something like this is because it would cost more time and money on the front end.

But she said in drafting the policy, her team has spoken with city staff, contractors, and engineers, and that they agreed it was worth the time and cost to prevent future delays and damage to small businesses, though more research is needed to understand how much it would cost.

Several small businesses on St. Mary’s have shuttered in the last two years due to the ongoing road construction.

“I just want residents to know we’re working really hard to figure out what the problems are with our construction, and to make sure their ease in everyday life is better and that they’re not obstructed by construction projects all the time,” Kaur said.

It may be several months before the full city council votes on the policy.

Editor’s Note: Sukh Kaur is a member of TPR's Board of Directors.

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