International Right of Way Association Top Ten Infrastructure Projects Countdown

8. Austin Clean Water Program

And number 8 on the IRWA Top Ten Infrastructure Projects list is the Austin Clean Water Program. Unlike most of projects that made this list, the Austin Clean Water Program isn’t easily identified by a graceful span of structural steel that connects two sides of a bay, or an expanse of interwoven highways, bridges, over passes and ramps. It’s a program designed to eliminate a problem and improve the quality of life in the area surrounding Austin, Texas.

The Austin Clean Water Program (ACWP) was created in November 2001 to comply with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued Administrative Order (A.O.) to eliminate Sanitary Sewer Overflows (SSOs) from the wastewater collection system.

The City of Austin received an A.O. from the U.S. EPA on April 29, 1999. The Administrative Order required that the City of Austin perform a series of activities designed to result in an improved wastewater collection system free from SSO’s. These activities included Infiltration/Inflow Studies (I/I), Sanitary Sewer Evaluation Surveys (SSES), as well as subsequent design and construction of necessary improvements to the wastewater collection system.

The City of Austin Water Utility, supported by other city departments, runs the Austin Clean Water Program.

The combined staffs of city personnel and support consultants, who are dedicated to this program, are called the Austin Clean Water Program Team (ACWPT). ACWPT provides management support and coordination for the planning, design and construction of sustainable wastewater collection facilities necessary to meet the A.O. requirements.

The most impressive component of this project is the fact that this is no short-term “let’s get it over and done with” passing project. This has become a change in lifestyle and attitude and a permanent commitment to the preservation of an environmental system.

The Austin Water Utility and the Watershed Protection & Development Review Department are collaborating to protect sewer lines in the creeks and clean up and restore at least two important Austin creeks through the Austin Clean Water Program (ACWP).

In the past, sewer lines were often placed in creek beds because gravity carries the wastewater flow to treatment plants. ACWP offered the City an opportunity to examine these existing lines in targeted areas to see how feasible it was to choose new alignments outside the creek beds. As a result, the Austin Water Utility removed lines from creeks when it was feasible and responsible, as well as rehabilitated existing lines where they remained.

Members of the Stream Team walked each stream segment and made recommendations for line placement, stream stability and environmental protection. Team members developed design standards that emphasized the use of native materials (limestone rocks, native plants) for stream stabilization.

Of the 29 projects identified in north Austin’s Crosstown Tunnel Basin, 14 relocated sewer lines entirely or partially outside of stream channels. Of those 14, nine were located entirely within streets. Where work was done in the creek, the channel was stabilized and restored to WPDRD standards.

In northeast Austin, on the Tannehill Branch of Boggy Creek in Bartholomew Park, wastewater lines and manholes were upgraded to reduce the likelihood of sewage overflows into the creek. In West Austin, exposed lines were removed and natural techniques restored Shoal Creek at Pease Park as two new lines were built, one under Lamar Boulevard and one under the hike and bike trail.

The project was much more than cleaning up streams and creeks. It became a total involvement of managing and disposing of a city’s waste materials in an environmentally friendly way.

To help with the project The City of Austin Water Utility created a citizens advisory group. Neighborhood, environmental and business leaders were named to the ACWP Advisory Group. Members served as an important public link to the project team, representing the views of other residents and neighborhoods, stakeholders, customers and Austin’s Water Utility.

The ACWP Utility commended the members of the advisory group who volunteered their time to serve on the Austin Clean Water Program Citizens Advisory Group.

The city, the utility and the citizens all worked together to make the project successful. In the process they all learned and are becoming better stewards of their environment.

They posted a very interesting, interactive diagram on their website that helps explain the reasoning behind correcting the problem in such an environmentally friendly way.

It’s easy to understand the reasoning behind making this one of the winners of the Top Ten Infrastructure Projects. It does deserve the recognition.

• Savings on Planned Budget:

  • Construction: Actual projects’ low bids came in $36,339,840 less than engineers’ estimates, an approximate 13% savings from the final design engineers certified estimates
  • Design: Rotation list contract encumbrances are current approximately $3.5M under Council Authorization with all base contracts authorized

Contractor Assistance Program (CAP): concluded the bidding process with a $12,521,997 savings between CAP contractor low bid and the next low bid while maximizing both competition in bidding and minority, women and small business participation in the construction effort

Maximizing WBE/MBE Participations exceeding all goals:

  • Program Management Consultant: 47.6% (>26.9% goal)
  • Design Rotation List: 56.4% (>26.9% goal)
  • Construction Contractors: 28%(>26.3% goal)
Secure Federal Grant Funding: STAG Grant funding secured for the City for a total of $3.5 million
Value Engineering: Evaluation of projects designs considering new investigative and rehab
techniques identified a $2.5 million savings in original planned designs
Minimized Change Orders: Change orders have lowered over the past 6 months to 3.7% on all awarded projects and 4.1% on completed projects

A reduction in overflow quantity: from more than 13 million gallons per year before the program begin to less than 285,000 gallons though the end of August, 2008.

A decrease in peak flows

  • Peak flow decreased at Wastewater treatment plant
  • Shoal Creek Pump Station: experienced no overflows in 2007 / 2008
  • Reduced I/I in the Shoal Creek Interceptors: Flow data indicated average flow in the 30” pipe has dropped from 0.91 mgd to 0.55 mgd (40% decrease) also, recent storm peak flow was recorded at 2.9 mgd as compared to the 12.6 mgd observed in similar intensity pre-construction storm (4X reduction).

Response Time Improvement: 80% in less than an hour
Water quality in urban streams is improving: Working with WPDRD on continuing monitoring
Extensive creek restoration and stabilization: took place as part of the program when removing pipe from creeks and to protect pipe including over $6 million in Steambank improvements involved on 63 of the 100 projects.
Parkland mitigation and improvements: added $3 million benefit as part of program.
Best Practices implemented by other City Departments
Joint Effort Between Program Management Consultant and City Staff
Developed Program Standards: Program Work Plan, Design Procedures Manual, Construction Procedures Manual, Risk Management Manual
Improved Inspection Techniques and Coverage
Public Outreach

  • Neighborhood and stakeholder meetings conducted: approximately 50 meetings held over past 6 months with more than 750 to date on the program including:

• Neighborhood and Business Association Meetings
• ACWP Citizen Advisory Group (CAG) Meetings
• Meet the contractor
• General construction updates
• Special concern issue meetings (trees, parks, construction hours, noise)
• Private Lateral Relocation Meetings
• Formed a staging area subcommittee

  • Construction Awareness Website received 156,782 hits over the past 6 months and have received more an 1,000,000 hits for an overall program.
  • Completed Barton Creek Lift Station Relief Tunnel Project which eliminated an aging lift station to protect Barton Springs and had milestone ceremony with stakeholders.
  • Implemented Broadband Alarms on 40 pieces of construction equipment being used by two ACWP contractors on ten different projects to address public concerns about construction noise coming from project sites and staging areas.
  • Worked with residence on coordinating new private laterals and cleanouts to 700 propertyowners with services impacted by changed location of new sewer lines.
EPA Coordination: Met with EPA and reported status of the Program maintaining open regulatory communication. Received extension of Ordinance through AO Extension
City of Austin Coordination: Held regular Executive Committee meetings, W/WW Commission Quarterly Presentation and Environmental Board Semi Annual pesentation & Reporting

Tomorrow we will travel from Austin to Phoenix and visit the Number 7 project on the list, City of Phoenix Light Rail System. It is interesting to note that all of these projects blend into the stimulus bill and the needed infrastructure improvements.

Greg Sitek

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