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West Cameron Avenue water construction and road work to be completed this month


Construction workers operate heavy machinery at a working construction site on West Cameron Avenue on Thursday, March 9, 2023.

Users of West Cameron Avenue will soon see some relief from years of construction.

Water line-related road work on the busy thoroughfare should be completed this month, according to Orange Water and Sewer Authority.

Simon Lobdell, utilities engineer for OWASA, said the goal is to repair two old, failing water lines on the road, which feed into the downtown area. 

The decade-old project had two phases; the first was completed in 2020 and the second one began in April 2022.

Lobdell said the steel, concrete and iron used in the original water lines have caused corrosion and structural failures. The replacement is being made with ductile iron, which he said is a more modern material. 

“When those failures happened, it was very difficult to fix them on short notice,” he said. “So, the plan was to rehabilitate and replace them with new lines.”

Some residents have raised concerns about how the road work impacts mobility in the area, especially when construction takes place on routes with heavy pedestrian traffic.

Haley Harris, who lives on Yates Motor Company Alley, said she walks up Cameron Court every day to get to her classes. 

Recently, though, she said she has noticed a lot of construction on the road, especially this semester.

Harris said she never knows when road work is being done, so detours — which can add five to 10 minutes to her walk — are not something she is always prepared for.

“It also gets really dusty and musty because they’re cutting up pavement and concrete,” she said. “So, you’re walking through that on your way to class and trying to not inhale the concrete.”

Harris said what upsets her most about the project is that she has never received any indication about when the construction is going on.

With OWASA's project moving into its second phase, Lobdell said that the last two months have resulted in the most visible impacts — including closures, road tear-ups and temporary water outages. 

To inform about the project, he said OWASA releases a monthly email update that is accessible to the public. Lobdell also said there is a reverse 911 service that notifies registered residents about outages.

The email signup is voluntary, and the reverse 911 service uses the number on file for the building — which is often a landlord instead of a temporary resident.

For larger structures in the area, he said OWASA coordinates directly with management to make sure they are aware of accessibility issues.

“It’s definitely imperfect, but it’s been our best method so far to push information out to the community,” he said.

Lobdell said currently, OWASA is ensuring the water lines work and repaving areas of the road that have been damaged.

With OWASA’s project almost complete, Ran Northam, the communications manager for the Town of Chapel Hill, said more plans for this road may be implemented soon.

Northam said Town staff are discussing increasing bike infrastructure along Cameron Avenue and whether this project has the funding to be a part of this year’s street resurfacing plan.

Though the Town does not have a timeline for when this reconstruction will start, Northam said it will take a while to determine a plan. He said the Estes Connectivity Plan is a good example of what the Town intends this project to look like.

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With the Town potentially making another decision impacting residents in the area, Northam said they will make sure a notification about a new project is sent out.

“We do a lot of work on the front end to make sure that the homeowners are notified of the work that’s coming up,” he said. “And that’ll be something during the resurfacing project that we’ll make sure to do.”


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