Lynchburg prepares to shift focus of major utility project to Main Street

LYNCHBURG, Va. – Main Street in downtown Lynchburg is inching closer and closer to being torn up for a major utility project.

Sidestreet work has already been underway and September 16 is the start date for the Main Street portion of the project.

In the months since last summer's project announcement, construction has been underway on a number of the side streets like on 10th Street, where underground vault work is currently being completed.

In just a few months, the work will move out here onto Main Street, and this is where the fun will really begin.

The city knows this is going to be a stressful project for everyone, but they are trying to take a light-hearted approach to get the job done.

The face of downtown Lynchburg is on the up and up, but mid-September will bring the most painful part of the facelift.

"We're looking at about a project duration of right around 24 to 27 months, with hopes and goals and dreams and plans to finish up by the start of the Christmas season in 2021," said Jes Gearing, Lynchburg Water Resources spokeswoman. 

Main Street will come up a section at a time for major water and electric replacement.

A major marketing campaign unveiled Tuesday asks people to see past the dust. Signs like, 'Bless our hearts y'all,' and, 'Fixin to fix it up, are bringing the southern charm. 

"Between having some art projects, having it be a creative, exciting experience to come downtown, but also marketing downtown reminding folks of what's going on, how amazing our businesses are," said Gearing.

Appalachian Power is upgrading a nearly century-old electric system of vaults and wiring and the water system are getting an upgrade. They're 90 percent finished with planning for the main event and say things have been smooth.

"The city, they've been a joy to work with. I've known a lot of these guys for many years and you know I've always said you don't get to know someone well until you work with them," said Tom Woodford, Appalachian Power Business Services account manager. 

Landscaping and sidewalk improvements will be the bow on top. The city is asking people to be patient, saying things are going well so far.

"As we've seen with Appalachian Power so far on the side street work, they're moving much faster than expected, which is great because that means that this project can really go at a nice clip once we're on main street," said Gearing. 

Despite all the planning, engineering and research on this project, leaders know that there are still going to be some surprises that they'll find once they start digging underground.

One thing that they do know they're going to find is the old trolley tracks that run here underneath Main Street. They say that they'll be ready to deal with that and any other surprises that pop up along the way.

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