Dilworth drainage project on schedule despite rain

Construction is taking place on a stormwater drainage project at Morehead, McDowell, Baxter and Oriole streets.
Construction is taking place on a stormwater drainage project at Morehead, McDowell, Baxter and Oriole streets. ddeaton@charlotteobserver.com

Construction underneath McDowell and Morehead Streets will affect traffic intermittently until it’s finished in fall 2016, but the current blockage of one incoming lane on Morehead isn’t connected to the $16.7 million storm water drainage project.

The city determined a water line was leaking at the end of May, creating a depression in the surface of Morehead Street, City of Charlotte project manager Kate Labadorf said. To minimize disruption, the contractor for the major project is also fixing the line.

Freddie Young, vice president of Sanders Utility Construction, said the water line should be repaired by the middle of next week, which will reopen the incoming lane, at least for now.

The larger project is designed to bring relief to Dilworth streets, including Euclid, Lexington and Myrtle Avenues, that have suffered from flooding since the 1990s.

The drainage system underneath the area was 100 years old in some sections, Labadorf said. The project builds a new, bigger system and moves the flow of water away from buildings, so that drains instead run under streets. The system flows into Sugar Creek, Young said.

Because the project is directly related to moving storm water, rainy days and afternoon thunderstorms aren’t just an inconvenience. Rain stops underground work altogether and can even be dangerous.

Workers’ tools washed away as they rushed to escape a sudden storm on May 28, Labadorf said.

“It got very scary. We got nine-tenths of an inch in like 10 minutes,” Young said. “We did good to get all our people out of there, but you don’t get storms like that very often.”

Rain can slow work, but Young said the project is actually running slightly ahead of schedule.

The project’s traffic barriers are near restaurants Art’s Barbecue and Deli and Dilworth Neighborhood Grille, but the lots are still accessible.

Construction workers patronize both restaurants, which helps make up for the parking confusion. Matt Wohlfarth, co-owner of Dilworth Neighborhood Grille, said his restaurant just had its busiest week in the 11 years it’s been open.

While a new sidewalk bar and several private parties accounted for some of the extra business, Wohlfarth also wonders if there’s a bright side to the construction. Maybe more people are seeing his restaurant, he said, because they’re stuck in traffic outside.

Wohlfarth spent part of Monday morning directing traffic to show people they could still turn in for lunch.

Art’s Barbecue has been in business for almost 40 years, and owner Danny Katopodis said his regular customers aren’t dissuaded by the construction. While the project is a nuisance and an eyesore, he said, he keeps a positive attitude.

“I know it’s something that has to be done,” he said. “It’s unfortunate that it’s right here where I am, but next year this time I’ll be looking back on it, hopefully I’ll forget all about it.”

Wester: 704-358-5169