Drivers whose daily commutes involve passing through the stretch on North Washington Street between Wyckoff and Cowan streets near Sonora High School could face delays over the next week for a project to replace a failing water-main pipeline belonging to Tuolumne Utilities District.

The district sent out an advisory notice about the work that began Thursday morning and scheduled to occur between the hours of 7 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. through Thursday, Sept. 12. It says that motorists could face delays of up to 15 minutes.

Both lanes are expected to remain open during the daytime work, though the southbound shoulder will be closed. Pedestrians will be diverted to the east side of North Washington Street.

Night work is scheduled to take place between 9 p.m. Sunday to 6 a.m. Monday that will require them to close the southbound lane and conduct one-way traffic control during those hours.

Brian Secora, a construction and maintenance foreman for TUD, said the work didn’t affect the flow of traffic that much on Thursday. The biggest issue was drivers passing by them too fast in the 25 mph zone.

“People don’t slow down,” he said. “They come flying through here even though we put signs up.”

The particular stretch typically gets congested each day around when Sonora High School starts at 8 a.m. and lets out after 3:10 p.m., in addition to the normal rush-hour traffic when most people are commuting to and from work.

Gaddiel DeMattei, associate engineer for TUD who worked on the project, said they tried to get the project done before the new school began on Aug. 20, but the process of getting the permits took longer than anticipated.

“The Caltrans encroachment permit was the biggie,” he said.

Caltrans requires a permit for work done along Washington Street because it’s also a section of Highway 49, a nearly 300-mile route owned and maintained by the state that stretches from Oakhurst in the south to Vinton in the north.

The project will replace a 200-foot section of steel water main pipeline under North Washington Street that has failed and sprung leaks multiple times in recent years with a polyurethane pipeline, which DeMattei is more durable and flexible.

“It shouldn’t leak anymore, first of all, and it should increase water quality,” he said.

DeMattei said he didn’t know exactly how old the steel pipeline is that’s being replaced, but downtown Sonora has many steel pipes that spring leaks more often than modern infrastructure.

The budget for the project is estimated $55,000.

“We do our best to an actual longer replacement project whenever we can, but we always have to budget it in, so that’s always a challenge,” he said.

DeMattei said the project involves the use of horizontal directional drilling that has less impact on the road, minimize the need for closures and reduce paving costs after the work is complete.

Wellco Drilling Inc., based in Raymond, is the district’s contractor for the drilling.

“It only needs the entrance pit, and then it can basically tunnel right underneath the road,” he explained. “The alternative would be to dig a trench for the entire 200-foot length.”

Crews finished the work they were scheduled to do early and were clear of the area at a little after 11 a.m. on Thursday.

They were scheduled to begin drilling on Friday along the shoulder in front of Top Cuts Barbershop at 226 N. Washington St. and Day-O Espresso at 230 N. Washington St., both of which will remain open during the work.

Benaiah Stofle, who has worked at Top Cuts for 19 years and owned it for 15, said he doesn’t anticipate the work affecting his business.

Stofle said he made a post on social media Thursday morning directing people to the parking lot behind his building due to most of the spaces along North Washington Street being taken by construction equipment.

“No problems so far,” he said.

Contact Alex MacLean at amaclean@uniondemocrat.com or (209) 588-4530.





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