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Pressure 'dents' or 'collapses' Avenue Road pipes - depending on who you talk to

Traffic begins to snarl on Oriole Parkway near Kilbarry Road as a $57 million project to replace a 100-year-old water main is underway. Both north and southbound directions are reduced to one lane for short distances.

matthew sherwood The Globe and Mail

Buckled pipes have piqued concerns about the lengthy installation of new water mains along Avenue Road, but the city says the project remains on schedule and on budget.

The $60-million project has been under way since May 2010, snarling traffic and stalling commuters travelling the busy corridor.

The water mains, which will eventually replace a system that is nearly 100 years old, are formed out of two concentric steel sleeves, with a layer of concrete injected in between them to form a single, solid piece. Lou Di Gironimo, general manager of Toronto Water, said that concrete along a roughly 30-metre section of piping near Oriole Parkway and Kilbarry Road reached too high a pressure, causing the piping to collapse. Workers first noticed the problem in November.

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Mr. Di Gironimo said that contractor Drainstar Contracting Ltd. had to re-excavate the affected area to repair the damage, but insists that the overall project remains on budget and is still scheduled for completion in late 2012.

"Whenever you're dealing with underground work, there are unknowns," Mr. Di Gironimo said, noting that the city is not responsible for problems, such as the pipe issue, that the contractor encounters.

The new mains will run from MacPherson Avenue to Caribou Road, through a series of tunnels, trenches, and pre-existing conduits.

The setback has stoked fears that the already lengthy process could take even longer. Other public works and infrastructure projects, like revitalizations along Bloor Street and construction of the St. Clair right-of-way, have blocked traffic, angered residents, and turned into political liabilities for city councillors.

Mike Sriskantha, the Drainstar project director responsible for Avenue Road, disputed some details of Mr. Di Gironimo's account, saying workers only needed to replace about 12 metres of piping and that no actual "collapse" had occurred. Mr. Sriskantha characterized the damaged section as "dented," and says Drainstar had piping on hand to fix the problem.

Both Mr. Sriskantha and Mr. Di Gironimo said that the damaged piping is a small issue when compared to the longer stretches, which Mr. Di Gironimo pegs at over 2,700 metres, that have been installed without incident.

But the project has not been without disruptions.

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In late 2010, crews had to pump out a large volume of groundwater at Avenue Road and St. Clair Avenue before work could continue.

Local councillor Josh Matlow said city staff have assured him that the repair will be done in March, a claim Mr. Sriskantha echoed.

"I had a lot of time to think about it while I was stuck bumper-to-bumper," Mr. Matlow said.

Special to The Globe and Mail

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