W. Thornton area ground zero for first major 25-year gas pipeline replacement project

June 26, 2009

Ward 3 - Residents of the West Thornton Street area of Ward 3 attended a special meeting at the Akron Urban League Wednesday night to learn about Dominion East Ohio's first major pipeline infrastructure replacement project expected to begin in their neighborhood next month.

Starting in late July, Dominion will begin replacing its gas lines on the following Ward 3 streets: West Thornton Street; West Bartges Street; Campbell Street; Raymond Street; Howe Street; Scheck Street; Russell Avenue; West Bowery Street; Kiefer Court; Norka Street and Norka Court; Moeller Avenue; Lane Street; Schumacher Avenue; Snyder Street; Haynes Street; Nathan Street and Rhodes Avenue. During construction, Dominion will shut off residents' gas service for one to three hours, but will notify affected customers 24 to 48 hours in advance.

Akron City Council President and Ward 3 Councilman Marco Sommerville invited Dominion to the neighborhood meeting to answer residents' questions about how the project will affect their service, traffic, access to their properties and their gas bills.

"This is the first major pipeline replacement project of its kind and residents along and near West Thornton Street will be the first to be affected by it," Sommerville said. "Naturally, they have questions about many aspects of it - particularly over whether it will hinder traffic or access to their homes, and how much this is going to cost them." 

The costs associated with the project include an expected 85 cent increase in most customers' monthly gas bills, and some customers may be required repair faulty gas lines running from the meter to Dominion's equipment or any faulty appliances. The company will not restore service until repairs are made.

Sommerville said he is coordinating city assistance for customers who can't afford required repairs, and Dominion will direct customers to sources of assistance with repairs.

Parking will be restricted in some construction areas to accommodate large equipment, backhoes and other construction vehicles, but the company will maintain an open lane of traffic at all times during construction.

The West Thornton project is part of the company's $2.5 billion plan to replace 4,100 miles of its 21,000-mile pipeline system over 25 years. Some of the pipes in the system are more than 80 years old.

The first four miles of pipeline to be replaced with a sturdy plastic 'Poly pipe' are in the Thornton Street area. Construction in this phase is expected to last through the end of the year.

"We have 20,000 miles of pipeline in our system and a certain subset is older vintage," said Jeffrey Murphy, Dominion's Managing Director of Commercial Operations. "If you look at 4,000 miles of it, it's older vintage that over decades will have a greater tendency to corrode."

Murphy said Dominion typically replaces 40 miles of pipeline annually, but because of the heavy concentration of older pipes in urban centers, the company sought approval from the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) to embark on its first large-scale urban pipeline replacement project, using Akron as a starting point.

"When you think about the older vintage parts of our system, they are in areas just like this," Murphy said, referring to the West Thornton Street area of Ward 3. "We want to make sure this is a good model for projects going forward."

The company plans similar projects in the Canton, Cleveland and Youngstown areas.

For updates on the West Thornton project status visit www.akroncitycouncil.org. Dominion customers also may visit www.dom.com, keyword: Pipeline Replacement, call 1-800-544-5768 between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. weekdays, or send questions by e-mail to OhioConstructionSupport@dom.com.