A general route for a new water line through Charlottesville to help move water more efficiently through the area has been established.
The project, called the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority’s Central Water Line Project, will add transmission lines to help deliver potable water more efficiently from the Observatory’s water treatment plant, located near the stadium Scott of the University of Virginia, to the city and to portions of Albemarle County around the city.
Generally the line runs from Stadium Road through the neighborhoods to Jefferson Park Avenue, down Cleveland Avenue, up Cherry Avenue, down Elliott Avenue, up Sixth Street SE, under the Belmont Bridge, to East High Street and to the RWSA Pantops water main.
The Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority board meeting on Tuesday approved the recommended route, and the authority will now proceed with a more detailed design and notify neighbors of the project.
Currently, the project is expected to be awarded to a contractor in the spring of 2024, with construction to be completed in the spring of 2029.
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RWSA provides wholesale water and wastewater services to Albemarle County Service Authority and Charlottesville. Area residents then pay water and sewer charges directly to the service authority and the city. It is currently unclear how this project will affect water tariffs.
Michelle Simpson, Rivanna’s senior civil engineer, said the project was needed to improve flow pressure, add redundancy to help with problems in the water system and to efficiently route water from the plant. of water from the Observatory to the city and parts of the county.
The project amends part of a 1987 agreement called the Southern Loop Agreement, which outlined two phases of a project to expand RWSA’s water transmission and storage system. The first phase was built at the time of the deal and included a two million gallon storage tank known as the Avon Street Tank, and a new transmission line to connect the tank and the oil processing plant. Observatory water, according to a project webpage.
In 2018, a plan to connect the Avon tank to another on Pantops was halted to consider “a more holistic approach” before moving forward. Ultimately, it was determined that continuing to route the South Loop Corridor “had minimal impact on improving the hydraulics of the system while also causing a water age issue” and the addition of possible transmission lines on Avon Street or the Seminole/Emmet Corridors “enhanced system performance in other areas but did not provide a primary solution to the challenge of efficiently transporting water from [Observatory] to Pantops,” said a routing study.
The route study was conducted by Michael Baker International and looked at different options on the Northern, Medium, Southern and Rail Corridor routes, and a version of the Southern route was chosen.
During public comments at the meeting, two townspeople questioned why the decision was made without public input.
“The big question is why there hasn’t been outreach to affected neighbors, and the public seems to be left out of this decision,” Kimber Hawkey said. “So we ask that this be presented to the public for discussion and to the city council.”
Dede Smith, a former city councilor who has long questioned the area’s water supply plan, said no community forums have been held on the project and neighborhood associations have not been contacted.
“It was planned entirely behind closed doors, in a city that prides itself on community engagement,” she said. “And guess who lost in this conversation? The South Corridor passes through the highest concentration of black and brown neighborhoods in Charlottesville, in a city that prides itself on equity.
Rivanna chief executive Bill Mawyer said Rivanna hasn’t had much public awareness at this point, and today’s meeting with the board is the first time he’ll see the recommended route. Rivanna worked with city staff and service authorities.
“But we’re not saying today is the end of the opportunity to talk to people about the route,” he said. “It really is a fresh start after we, the staff and our consultants, have been able to come up with what we will call a recommended route. But we are ready to go out and talk to the neighborhood once we have the advice from our Board of Directors and continue this discussion.”
Simpson said the southern concept takes advantage of some of the largest right-of-way-width streets in the city.
“It also provides better hydraulic conductivity to our system than any of the other options because in the southern portions we connect to existing 12 inch water lines in Avon Street and Fifth Street…and it provides stronger hydraulic conductivity south of the city. , which connects to our South Loop water line and our Avon Reservoir,” she said.
In the route study, Simpson stated that constructability, traffic impacts, parking and sidewalks, neighborhood, railroad crossings, utility congestion, easement access, construction, opportunities for coordination with other city projects, and permits were all considered.
The Northern Corridor concept ran along Market Street, up Preston Avenue to Grady Avenue and down Emmet Street, which Simpson said presented challenges with narrow and congested neighborhood streets, heavy traffic in the city center and minimal hydraulic connectivity with the southern parts of the city.
The middle corridor concept went from Market Street, down Ridge/McIntire, down West Main Street, and down Jefferson Park Avenue, which also presented similar challenges.
The preliminary project cost estimate for the project is $31 million, and how the cost will be divided between the city and the service authority is still under discussion with an amendment to the South Loop agreement. .
Smith also questioned the increased cost, as the project was already listed in budget documents at $13 million. Simpson said the $13 million figure that was included in earlier documents was a fictional amount and was based on the original half of the South Loop agreement plans.