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Water work becoming sign of summer in Escanaba

Sneaking around a “Road Closed” sign won’t get you very far at the corner of 8th Avenue South and South 19th Street in Escanaba. The road has been torn up and dirt has been heaped into a pile that spans the entire width road as a result of the city’s ongoing lead service line and water main replacement project.

ESCANABA — With warm weather comes city projects, and none are as significant in the city of Escanaba as the water main and lead service line replacements, which have become a feature of Escanaba summers and have impacted the order of road improvement projects since the state began mandating the replacements in 2021.

Taking advantage of the unseasonably warm temperatures seen this spring, the water department has already made significant progress on lead service line-related work. As of May 21, the city had completed 148 lead service line replacements and placed 3,164 feet — more than half a mile — of water main.

“We’ve gotten a pretty good jump because of the weather,” said Jeff Lampi, water and wastewater superintendent for the city of Escanaba.

Water system repairs are linked to road projects because the majority of the city’s water infrastructure is located under or directly adjacent to the city’s streets.

For that reason the city’s department of public works has been working in tandem with the water department on street projects, ensuring that roads that are torn up as a result of the water projects are repaired as soon as possible and that roads that are freshly paved aren’t torn up to complete water projects.

The shared project load has led to 3,060 feet of new curbing being installed in the city along with 12,515 square feet of new sidewalk, or roughly 350 six-foot-square sidewalk sections.

However, the combined projects also mean that larger projects may mean delays for motorists. For example, water line replacements are planned for a section of South Lincoln Road that will cause disruptions for residents traveling from Ludington Street to the city’s southern limit

“The plan is to get in and out of South Lincoln Road before the 4th of July and to work around all the holidays, and … I think (the Michigan Department of Transportation has) a ban on working on Fridays on the highway. So we’re going to just make the best and the most of what we can do every day, the four days we’re allowed to work and try and get it done before the fourth so the highway is restored for the midsummer tourist season.”

The wastewater department, which is also under the umbrella of Lampi’s leadership, has plans slated for Ludington Street this year that also could affect how residents spend their summers.

The Ludington Street Lift Station is set to be replaced sometime this summer, as are the sewer mains along Ludington Street, however, the timeline for those projects has yet to be determined.

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