Lynchburg explains merging infrastructure projects to reduce impact on Main Street

The electrical and water infrastructure need upgrades to match growing demand

LYNCHBURG, Va. – Lynchburg has some of the oldest underground pipes in the country so more construction in downtown is right around the corner.

City officials lead a public meeting Thursday night to explain why the systems need upgrades. They told those in attendance they're hoping to minimize the impact on as many people as they can and that they will maintain constant communication with those affected to resolve problems.

One of those businesses is Market at Main. It's become a Main Street staple and owner Rodney Taylor has seen the face of downtown change right before his eyes.

"More and more restaurants are opening, the success of downtown has really been phenomenal in the last decade and I don't think it's going to stop," Taylor said. "I think we've got a lot of good things ahead of us."

To keep those good things coming, the city is continuing the Main Street Renewal Project. The second phase of the project lies between 8th street and 12th street, a densely packed stretch of blocks with both commercial and residential offerings.

"The long term outcome will be good," Taylor said. "It will be painful getting there."

To reduce that pain, two separate projects have merged. Appalachian Power needs to replace underground lines and vaults from the 1930s. The setup serves customers just fine now, but who knows what tomorrow brings.

"We feel with all the added load we keep seeing down here, the load growth in both business and residential, the time is ripe to replace our infrastructure," Appalachian Power project manager Jim Hines said.

The city water department is in the same boat as it currently maintains one of the oldest public systems in the country. There's a complex series of pipes and fittings that don't mesh with each other as effectively as they could so they need streamlining.

"We were already working on the design phase for doing work on Commerce Street, but decided to move that work up to Main Street to go in the ground at the same time (as the electrical work,)" Lynchburg Department of Water Resources Spokeswoman Jes Gearing said.

It's unclear what kind of closures there will be or how it will affect people above ground, but the city said now is the time to do the work. Beautification projects including trees, crosswalks and new LED street lights will come with the below ground upgrades.

Market at Main is preparing for the inconvenience, knowing you need power and water to keep the food going to the table.

"This certainly makes sense that the city and Appalachian Power are working together to make sure that this is one project and not two on Main Street," Taylor said.

The design phase of both parts of the project is set to finish mid summer 2019. When that happens they'll have a better idea of how long this project will actually take and what exactly it will look like. Until then, it's just sit back, wait and give your comments while you can.

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