Replacing aging infrastructure is a common theme today and one that deserves our full attention. On September 13, 2018, excessive pressure in natural gas lines caused a series of explosions and fires in 40 homes in Massachusetts. The cost of this tragic incident is estimated to be $1 billion, in addition to a fatality and the evacuation of 30,000 people.
Following the event, the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (DPU) assembled an independent panel to evaluate the physical integrity and safety of Massachusetts’ gas distribution systems. Phase 1 of the report produced these important findings which suggest interventions are likely needed beyond Massachusetts:
- States in the Northeast have a higher share of leak prone pipe (cast iron and unprotected steel) in the make-up of their gas distribution systems when compared to their overall share of gas distribution pipe in the US. The Northeast was settled earlier and cast iron and bare steel pipe were the materials of choice at the time of installation.
- While the natural gas distribution systems are generally reliable, leak prone pipe should be replaced for safety, reliability, and environmental reasons.
- Further increasing the pace of replacing leak prone pipe would result in an overall reduction of risk.
- Other opportunities for improvement were identified including improving records, developing and enhancing GIS, and increasing the number of company inspectors.
Massachusetts has also taken an important step toward working to reduce risk to the public with a new law requiring a professional engineer (PE) review and approve plans for natural gas pipeline work. While this does present challenges to the utilities, it offers an additional safeguard too.
CHA’s regulatory and integrity management specialists and experienced, licensed utility engineers, based in New England and New York, have been providing support to utilities as they upgrade their gas systems and put in-place other programs to improve upon the safety and reliability of their service. The Massachusetts panel is continuing its work and will issue a final report including information collected during field visits with each gas company. These findings will provide additional guidance as utilities and engineers work to improve aging infrastructure.
Contact Jeff O’Donnell, PE, Principal Engineer & Senior Project Manager at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Lowe’s Way Interchange, Hamilton County, Indiana
The Lowe’s Way Interchange design reconfigured an existing interchange by adding a new on-ramp from Lowe’s Way to southbound Keystone Parkway that will improve the overall roadway network efficiency and result in significantly less congestion and reduced travel time for travelers in Hamilton County, Indiana.
The first phase of this project, which will be completed 17 months early, includes .5 miles of new roadway construction including new bridges over Keystone Parkway and Cool Creek and a roundabout at the Lowe’s entrance intersection. Phase I will allow access that currently does not exist from 146th Street to Keystone Parkway. Phase II, under construction this summer and due to be complete by the end of 2019, includes .25 miles of new roadway and a bridge over Cool Creek. CHA’s role in this project included Phase I and Phase II design, road and bridge design, environmental services, right-of-way management, traffic analysis/design, and the management of subconsultants.
Camden High School, New Jersey
Originally built in 1916, Camden High School has been a cornerstone of its community, but this “Castle on the Hill” had fallen into disrepair. The district’s hope was to design and construct a new educational complex that would preserve the legacy of Camden High School while providing today’s students with state-of-the-art learning facilities, incorporating modern security.
The new $90 million complex, serving 1,200 students, will include four small learning communities - Brimm Medical Arts, Creative Arts High School, Big Picture Learning Academy, and Camden High School. The Life Safety and Security Group at CHA was tasked with developing a leading-edge security design for the facility. Drawing on its specialized expertise in educational facility security design, the team is developing the security design, permitting, and construction documents for the new complex. This work will include a range of security elements from door hardware and locking mechanisms for access control, to closed circuit TV for video surveillance including video storage, content review and retrieval/export functions, and voice intercoms. The design also addresses operational issues such as utility company access, deliveries, morning drop off and after school access all to provide a safe and secure learning environment for students.
What’s on that Pole?
Most of us hardly notice utility poles that we pass, never mind what they are supporting, but those poles are the key to delivery of high speed communications technology. To facilitate their use, the assessment and technology-enabled analysis of utility poles has become a national priority. Regulatory initiatives poised to support the next generation of high-speed cellular mobile networks, known as 5G, have increased pressure on electric and telecom utilities to free up valuable real estate on their already congested utility poles. With co-location requirements, which require owners to share utility poles with other providers, electric, telecom, cable and internet providers must now reassess their poles to free space to attach supporting infrastructure for 5G capability.
On behalf of utility pole owners, teams of engineers are now needed to assess each pole where new utilities can be attached. At the top of the pole is the highest voltage connection point, with lower voltages descending along the pole. Using state-of-the-art data gathering equipment, engineers deliver photo-verifiable utility pole and tower measurements faster and safer than previous methods, greatly speeding up permitting and project delivery.
Technical staff is also needed to collect field data in analytical programs that can quickly model pole characteristics and perform comprehensive pole loading analyses to assure that utility poles meet National Electric Safety Code (NESC) criteria for safe operations. With this software, project work orders are generated and distributed quickly to workers in the field.
Safety is always a focus, but the volume of work presents its own challenges. Pole owners must be selective when contracting to complete this large workload safely and effectively. CHA works on behalf of utility pole owners to analyze poles for additional attachments. Using state-of-the-art technologies and high standards for quality, we analyze tens of thousands of utility poles annually.
Contact Greg Germain, Utility Infrastructure Market Leader at GGermain@chacompanies.com or Andrew Kinley, Electrical Distribution Design Technical Leader at AKinley@chacompanies.com for more information.