National Grid To Reinstall West Chatham Gas Lines

By: Tim Wood

The West Chatham Roadway Project has been delayed due to improperly installed gas lines.  The lines are slated to be dug up and replaced at the proper depth. FILE PHOTO 

CHATHAM – National Grid will reinstall 1,700 feet of gas lines along Route 28 at the proper depth to accommodate the reconstruction of the roadway along the West Chatham business corridor.

“It looks like it could be happening starting in two weeks,” Public Works Director Tom Temple told selectmen Monday. He met earlier in the day with representatives from National Grid, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, which is spearheading the $4 million West Chatham Roadway Project, and the project contractor. Permits for the work have been filed with the state, according to an email from National Grid spokesman Robert Kievra.

"We met Monday at the site to review the scope of work with various stakeholders, including representatives from the town of Chatham,” he wrote. “We are awaiting approval of the required permits from the state Department of Transportation. We hope to be able to provide additional details about the project upon receipt of the permit."

National Grid buried the gas lines along the stretch of roadway at the required three-foot depth, but that did not account for the lowering of the roadway by more than six inches near the roundabouts to be built at Barn Hill and George Ryder roads. It was initially proposed that the roadway be raised, but there was concern that could cause drainage problems. Selectmen took the position that the gas lines should be dug up and reburied at the proper depth.

The glitch has caused a delay in the construction, but Temple said Monday the contractor may be able to get some work done this spring, before the Memorial Day seasonal cutoff. Work that could probably be accomplished includes completing catch basin installation and hydrant relocation near Barn Hill Road, Temple said. Although a revised schedule has not been completed, he told selectmen the roadway project could be completed by spring 2022, or as late as December of that year.

“We won't know until we get the schedule,” he said.

Plans for the project include eliminating the center turning lane between Barn Hill and George Ryder roads, adding multi-purpose lanes and sidewalks and the two roundabouts. The project has a rocky history; it was opposed by many West Chatham residents and business owners but supported by selectmen as a safety improvement. The board recently rejected a proposal to create a detour around the work area to expedite the schedule out of concern for the businesses, which took an economic hit several years ago when detours diverted traffic during sewer construction.

Business owners have expressed concern about the rough condition of the road surface and asked officials to make improvements prior to this summer. Temple said he's asked MassDOT to allow a “skim coat” to be smooth out the roadway after the gas work is completed. Reinstallation of the gas lines should take about two weeks with additional time needed to make lateral connections.

“The whole thing should be wrapped up within one month from when they put the shovel in the ground,” Temple said.

Relocation of cable TV wires is expected to be completed this week, he said, and Verizon has 167 days to transfer its wires to new utility poles.

Temple also said that he's asked the contractor to install sewer and water connections at 1610 Main St., the possible location of a new senior center (see story, page 1). If the site is chosen for a new council on aging facility, construction will likely not be completed until the end of 2021 or beginning of 2022, Owners Project Manager Rick Pomroy said Monday. Temple said state regulations prohibit disturbing the road surface for five years after a project like the one being done in West Chatham, so he wanted to make sure the utility connections are in place before any final paving is done. If the site isn't chosen for a new senior center, those connections will still be necessary for whatever development takes place on the property, he added.