Xcel Energy recently began the third and largest phase of a four-year, $69 million project to upgrade the natural gas system in the east metropolitan area to enhance safety and ensure continued reliable service.
“We are refurbishing 11½-miles of natural gas pipeline that is the backbone of a system that serves 100,000 homes and businesses in the eastern Twin Cities,” said Chris Clark, president of Northern States Power Co.-Minnesota, an Xcel Energy company. “Besides benefiting our customers, projects like this one have significant economic impact on local communities, including providing jobs and increasing Xcel Energy’s property tax payments to local governments.”
Existing pipeline, which ranges from 16 inches to 24 inches in diameter, is being replaced with new 20-inch pipeline that includes the ability to use advanced assessment technology to help ensure the integrity and reliability of the system. It also includes remote control valves that will improve natural gas delivery efficiency, especially during peak use days, and give operators greater capability to isolate a pipeline segment in an emergency, thus reducing the potential for loss of service to customers.
Work on the project started two years ago in Roseville and northern St. Paul and moved farther south into the state capital city last year. This year 4.2 miles of pipeline will be replaced in four St. Paul neighborhoods – North End, Frogtown, Summit-University and Summit Hill.
“We worked closely with the city of St. Paul to minimize traffic interruptions, and we also worked with St. Paul Regional Water Services to coordinate replacement of nearly 2 miles of old water main concurrent with our natural gas pipeline work this year to hold down costs and neighborhood disruptions,” said John Marshall, Xcel Energy’s government and community relations manager in St. Paul.
Major construction is to continue through October, to avoid natural gas delivery interruptions during the heating season. The majority of the construction includes cutting a trench in the street, removing the existing pipe and installing new pipe in the same location. In addition, two sections will be horizontally drilled or “directionally bored” underground – one beneath Interstate 94 near St. Albans Street and one beneath railroad tracks near Park Street.
Work is underway at the intersection of Park Street and Maryland Avenue. It will then move south on Park Street to Sherburne Avenue and then turn west, proceeding along Sherburne Avenue to St. Albans Street. From there the project will head south on St. Albans, beneath I-94 and continue for more than a mile south along St. Albans until reaching Pleasant Avenue, where this year’s work will end.
Construction crews will be closing streets one or two blocks at a time in order to complete the work, and Xcel Energy will restore affected areas to their original condition.
“Both Xcel Energy and our contractor, Q3 Construction, will work with residents and businesses along the route to make sure everyone has access to their homes and properties, and we are working with the St. Paul police and fire departments to make sure emergency vehicles have access in case of emergencies,” Marshall said. “Given the ethnic diversity of the communities the construction will be affecting, we’re providing project fact sheets on our website in English and four other languages – Hmong, Karen, Somali and Spanish.”
Here are the project phases:
• Completed 2013: Rice Street and Ramsey County Road B in Roseville to Park Street and Rose Avenue in St. Paul
• Completed 2014: Pleasant Avenue and St. Albans Street to Lexington Parkway and Montreal Avenue in St. Paul
• Scheduled May through October 2015: Rose Avenue and Park Street to Pleasant Avenue and St. Albans Street in St. Paul
• Scheduled May through October 2016: Montreal Avenue and Edgcumbe Road to Elway Street and Shepard Road in St. Paul, and Pleasant Avenue and St. Albans Street to Randolph Avenue and James Avenue in St. Paul.