James Barber, chief of staff to Mayor Sandy Stimpson, said it is hard to know what the final cost of the work will be. City officials hope to get similar results on an even more ambitious project under way on Broad Street.
“Every time we peel back a layer on that, because it’s so old, they’re finding a lot of, you know, unforeseeable issues,” he said. “It was trying, for sure,” said Lindsey Stiegler, owner of Soiree Signatures. “There was no traffic. You know, the street was blocked on both sides of Florida Street. We would have to kind of figure out interesting ways to get to our building some days.”
The Florida Street work drew angry complaints in 2018 and 2019 from businesses along the heavily traversed route because of the time it took to complete. Not exactly a great way to start a new venture, Stiegler said. She said she bought the building to house her graphic design studio specializing in invitations and party printables about six months before the work began.
“And so, look at a very vast network, a 300-year-old drainage system that’s all been piecemealed together,” he told FOX10 News. “And so there’s a lot of effort into making sure that we change out that infrastructure. And again, a lot of the flooding that you see isn’t because of drainage in that area but something happening downstream.” Such is par for course for a city whose infrastructure is so old that it still has wooden pipes in some parts, Barber said.
“Since then, everything seems to be flowing really well,” she said. “I don’t ever really notice any major puddles or anything. But the flow of traffic is also really good.” But Stiegler said the project seems to have delivered on its promise. Previously, she said, the street routinely would flood and water sometimes would make it into the building where Penelope’s Closet used to be. Since the project, Stiegler said, she can recall only one really bad storm that flooded the street after the city completed the work.
City officials said they plan to use money from a fund collected from money paid by BP after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill to pay for a comprehensive GPS mapping of every existing piece of stormwater infrastructure. That will help planners identify vulnerable areas, Barber said. Improved 66 miles of ditches.Cleaned 10,449 drains.Closed 9,700 linear feet of ditches.Repaired or replaced 5,800 linear feet of concrete ditches. Big-ticket projects are only one part of a multifaceted strategy for reducing perennial flooding in low-lying sections of the city. The city is spending tens of millions of dollars. The Department of Public Works has purchased four additional vacuum trucks since 2019. That has significantly increased the number of drains that city workers can clean. Last year and in 2019, the city also completed the following work:
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