Sewage takes a detour, creating downtown obstacles

Temporary pipes cross roads, sidewalks as Cedar Rapids repairs more flood damage

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CEDAR RAPIDS — For weeks, downtown drivers have maneuvered around detours and office workers have stepped around big pipes blocking sidewalks.

The work snaking through downtown — now encroaching on the Cedar River Trail and blocking intersections entirely — aims to repair sewer lines damaged in the 2008 flood.

Get used to the inconvenience because the city says it’ll go on for months.

The $7.9 million project is being paid for with funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. It’s a project that temporarily sends sewage on its own detour through an aboveground pipe until the lining in the underground pipe is replaced.

The work is the first of two phases to improve the city’s sewer systems.

“We are replacing nearly 6,000 linear feet of sewer lines,” said Cedar Rapids development service communication coordinator Emily Muhlbach. “That line supports a lot of residents and businesses on the east side of the Cedar River, and it is really important for it to be replaced.”

This first phase, which goes through April, focuses on a stretch of pipe going southward from the area near the Quaker Oat Co. plant, then near the Cedar River Trail until curving around Greene Square to head easterly, then continuing southerly to Eighth Avenue SE.

Fifth Street SE is open to traffic, but intersections on the east side of the street with Fifth Avenue SE, Sixth Avenue SE and Seventh Avenue SE are closed because of the aboveground pipe.

The second phase will continue the project from Eighth Avenue SE southward to the Cargill area.

The entire project is projected to be done by July.

The temporary aboveground sewer pipe that drivers and pedestrians cope with is a way of dodging even more costly construction.

“It would have cost at least twice as much if we had replaced the pipe,” Muhlbach said. “Instead, we are removing it and rehabilitating the pipe — saving at least $8 million.”

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