Microtunneling for Lift Station 87 project clears Hudson Bayou and bridge

City manager and utility director point to significance of the news

The City of Sarasota released this photo on its Twitter account on Jan. 30, showing the micro tunneling work underway. Image courtesy City of Sarasota

City Manager Tom Barwin made the announcement on the night of Feb. 6, as the City Commission was close to wrapping up its regular meeting.

Calling it “probably the best news that we could have received in four-and-a-half years,” he said that as of 2 p.m. that day, the Lift Station 87 microtunnel boring machine had successfully passed beneath both Hudson Bayou and the Osprey Bridge abutment.

“And nothing has gone wrong,” he added, prompting at least one of the commissioners to knock wood, in line with the old superstition about not becoming too complacent in the face of success.

Showing the board members a photo on his cellphone, Barwin continued, “Even the manatees were floating next to the bridge while all this was going on and not even disturbed.”

“This is a significant milestone,” said city Utility Director Mitt Tidwell in a news release the city issued. “We are well on our way to the receiving shaft at Osprey Avenue and Mound Street. This leg of microtunneling should be completed in late February or early March,” he added in the release.

Barwin pointed out to the commissioners that the Lift Station 87 initiative “is one of the most significant public works projects ever” for the city.

The city still is in the midst of a lawsuit over the original Lift Station 87 project, Barwin noted. As of early last month, City Attorney Robert Fournier told The Sarasota News Leader, the total of the city’s legal fees was more than $4.7 million.

A team member monitors the work in a control room. Image courtesy City of Sarasota

The engineer of record for the current initiative is McKim & Creed, which undertook extensive research and analysis before launching the new round of work. Through that process, it found that the previous project team would have drilled into the north abutment of the Osprey Avenue bridge across the bayou.

“It appears the drill would have been in the silt and sediment layer,” noted Robert Garland, Southeast regional manager of McKim & Creed, during a November 2013 status meeting on the project.

The microtunneling under the bayou and bridge began on Saturday, Jan. 28 and has progressed at an average of 20 feet per day, the city news release pointed out.

Robert Garland. Photo from LinkedIn

“Microtunneling is a specialized trenchless construction technique for installing pipelines under waterways, wetlands and roadways,” the release explained.

The work will continue from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturdays, the release noted.

After the microtunneling has been completed, the contractor will install a 36-inch wastewater main, pressure test the pipeline segments, install manholes and restore the area, the release said. That work should be completed this summer, and then the Osprey Bridge will reopen, the release added.

Work on the Lift Station 87 structure in Luke Wood Park is scheduled to begin in July, the release noted. Lift Station 87 will replace Lift Station 7, located at 935 Pomelo Ave. After the entire project has been finished, wastewater flow will be redirected from Lift Station 7 to Lift Station 87.

For more information about the Lift Station 87 project, go to www.liftstation87.com or call the project information line at 356-8071.