Natural gas project delays stall Truckee road repaving plans
Delays in installation of a natural gas infrastructure by Southwest Gas are stalling repaving work on Truckee streets, according to Town Manager Steve Wright.
Southwest Gas is completing construction begun last year, which ended early because of bad weather. But the future of new pipeline installation, slated to happen this summer at Donner Lake, Prosser Lakeview, the downtown core and the rest of Tahoe Donner, is still undetermined by Southwest Gas.
Last year’s project still under way, known as Phase 2 in a three-phase project, includes installation of gas pipes in the Truckee area as well as service to Sierra Meadows, Ponderosa Palisades, West River Street and about one-third of Tahoe Donner.
Southwest Gas has yet to install the line for 400 more connections as part of Phase 2, said Jim Kane, the senior vice president of operations based in the Las Vegas. He said the company is setting new gas meters to the line already installed, and that completion of Phase 2 will depend on the weather and when new digging can begin.
Kane denied rumors that Southwest Gas will not follow through on the much anticipated Phase 3, the new pipeline installation which was supposed to begin this spring. But he didn’t know when construction on Phase 3 would begin, and might not know until after a Southwest Gas board meeting May 6.
Delays hinder town
This puts the town in a bind, because it can’t begin repaving streets until after the gas pipelines are installed, Wright said.
Once Southwest Gas submits construction plans, it takes about 30 days for the town to review them and issue encroachment permits.
“If they wait until after the board meeting to submit plans, it won’t be until mid-June when pipeline construction starts,” Wright said. “If they move their work to the end of the construction season, we’ll be scrambling for a bid at the end of the season to repave the streets, when costs go up. If we lose another year of repaving time, the road will deteriorate.”
The town has also received phone calls from residents asking when construction is slated to begin, Wright said. Residents have been telling him they can’t get information out of Southwest Gas’s local office on West River Street.
Rumors that Southwest Gas wouldn’t complete construction began about a month and a half ago, said Jim Maass, a Truckee-Donner Public Utility District director. Maass also said the company’s local representative, Chris Herschberger, was apparently terminated. Southwest Gas will neither confirm nor deny that information, and Herschberger’s home phone number is disconnected.
Maass said he is going to contact the state Public Utilities Commission to determine whether Southwest Gas is legally bound to install the pipelines by a certain date.
Prices for the natural gas project are more expensive than estimated in 1993, but the increases won’t prevent further construction, Kane said.
Phase 2 was estimated at $11.9 million and Phase 3 at $8.1 million. Phase 1, which included service expansion in the Tahoe Basin, finished in 1995 and cost $6.4 million. Final costs for Phase 2 and projected costs for Phase 3 haven’t been estimated yet, Kane said.
Southwest Gas representatives will meet with town officials Thursday afternoon, and the issue will be discussed at the town council meeting tonight, April 3, at 6 in the Town Hall board room.
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