PITTSFIELD — A winning bid has been selected for a long-planned major drainage project to combat flooding along Mountain Drive, but construction won't begin until the spring.
Commissioner of Public Utilities Bruce Collingwood said the contract has been awarded to D.R. Billings Inc. of Lanesborough at a cost of $998,495. However, federal permitting and other project factors have forced a delay until the end of the winter.
The city had estimated up to $1 million for the work, which will include replacing 1,100 feet of storm drain, providing a larger opening to the storm drain system and making other improvements to channel storm runoff away from the hillside area.
The plan calls for installing a 42-inch wide stormwater main that will replace the current smaller culvert system draining water under the hilltop area of Mountain Drive, from near the Yvonne Drive intersection to just south of Gaston Drive.
Conservation commissioners said during a meeting Thursday that a project design review by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, required in part because of the size of the project, and ongoing talks to gain property easements to do the construction work have been factors slowing the project start.
Collingwood said ordering the amount of culvert required is another factor.
"There is a long lead time on the precast concrete culvert pieces, so it pushes the start of construction to next spring," he said. "The city is working on a few temporary easements, but I fully expect them to be resolved by the time we break ground. We also plan to send a notice to the neighborhood prior to the start of construction to remind everyone about the project and the typical disruptions that come with this type of work."
Because the existing stormwater system is not large enough to handle the amount of water sometimes flowing through it, flooding has occurred at all times of the year, including winter when there is a thaw and rain.
Residents have said problems include standing water, damaged lawns, mud deposits inside buildings and "exploding" manhole covers in areas downhill from the flooded sites.
Ward 4 City Councilor Christopher Connell once described a manhole cover as rising up "like Old Faithful," and a resident said during a commission meeting said the heavy covers have been propelled as high as 10 feet by rushing waters.
Connell said Friday that before the winter, he hopes the commission and the city can obtain permission from property owners to temporarily clean out debris from the existing undersized culvert extending under Mountain Drive.
He said he wants to have cleared out a section of the culvert where it enters the system near the top of the hill.