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Aging infrastructure poses big challenges down the road

On Pine Ave. in Meridian, there’s hardly a car in sight. Construction crews with heavy machinery have torn out the road. While the road is being widened, the city is replacing all the water mains and sewer pipes.

On Pine Ave. in Meridian, there’s hardly a car in sight. Construction crews with heavy machinery have torn out the road. While the road is being widened, the city is replacing all the water mains and sewer pipes.

“Each year we replace a certain amount of mainline throughout the city, we prioritize that based on three things… age of the pipe, material of the pipe or also size or capacity of the pipe,” said Laurelei McVey, Deputy Director of Meridian Utility Operations.

There’s more than 1,000 miles of water and sewer mains, replacing them all, over time, is a monumental task. The city has a strategy to lessen the inconvenience to the public and save taxpayer money.

The city partners with ACHD, ITD and others. If they find out a road will be torn up, the city goes ahead and replaces the water and sewer lines so they don’t have to tear it up again down the road.

“We like to partner with them and do our work at the same time which reduces the overall costs to the citizens,” McVey said.

Right now the city replaces a half mile up to a mile of pipe each year. That means it could take up to 1,000 years to replace the whole system. In the coming decades, neighbors can expect to see more construction work like what’s happening on Pine Ave.

“We do realize that as the city continues to age, Meridian's relatively lucky, most of our system is relatively new in age as far as pipes go. Our rate of replacement is going to have to increase as we get to that 75 to 100 year mark and we are making plans for those long term projects,” McVey said.

In Nampa, they have about 800 miles of water and sewer mains combined. Currently, the city replaces one mile worth of infrastructure each year.

Nampa has been split up into seven zone, each zone has about 50 miles worth of streets and infrastructure.

The goal is to focus on each zone once every seven years, evaluating and replacing infrastructure such as water and sewer lines.

Nampa hopes to get to a point where it's replacing a minimum of four to five miles of mains each year.

In Boise, Suez manages water mains and the city manages sewer lines. There's 1280 miles of water mains and 950 miles of sewer mains.

Suez and Boise use an evaluation system when lining up their projects. When it comes to prioritizing pipe replacement projects, they look at the likelihood of failure versus the consequence of failure.

When ACHD, ITD or CCDC have a project, Suez and the City of Boise piggyback on their projects and replace mains while the pipes are more easily accessed.

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