PG&E is planning to dig a trench down freshly paved Whitmore Avenue in Ceres this summer to replace an important gas line that serves Ceres, Hughson and Turlock. While the Ceres City Council appeared concerned about the utility company cutting up a smooth street paved in 2011, members were assured by a PG&E spokesman at Monday's meeting that the patch should be undetectable to motorists.
Richard Dye, PG&E's Government Relations Representative, said the goal is to install 10 miles of new pipeline from Ceres High School to Hughson before going to Geer Road down to Turlock, and make the road surface appear seamless in the process.
"We just redid it," Lane reminded Dye.
City Engineer Toby Wells said rather than have PG&E to do a mere slurry seal involving an oil and sand mixture, the company will be required to grind an inch beyond the trench opening, fill it in the hole with pea gravel to prevent settling and perform a thin overlay "to give it the best shot at the way it looks today." Dye said the work will be in the center between seams and that the "plan is to not be able to tell."
PG&E is replacing gas lines in the state through a high pressure hydrostatic testing process to determine which of the older lines are at risk of rupturing and causing explosions like the one in San Bruno. Dye said PG&E's line down Whitmore Avenue to Hughson varies in age, dating back to the 1930s to the 1970s. Because it ranges in size from six to eight inches, it cannot accommodate "smart pigs," a robotic video camera to check line integrity.
"Given the age, it's more efficient for us to replace it than upgrade it," said Dye.
The larger size pipe will allow service to future food processing plants, he added.
The new line will be 12 inches in diameter and be planted 15 to 20 feet from the current line, which will be left in place in the interim because it supplies gas users in Hughson and Turlock. Once the new gas line is installed and used, the old line will then be abandoned and left buried in the ground.
The work will commence in late June or early July and take approximately four months if weather cooperates, he said. Work is expected to end in October.
A similar replacement was recently completed near the Vintage Faire Mall.
PG&E must submit a traffic plan to the city that details when work will be done to minimize traffic impacts. Some disruptions can be avoided at night, which tends to slow down work, but PG&E will attempt to educate the public "before, during and after" the work takes place, he noted.
Dye said PG&E and the city are in discussion about boring under Mitchell Road to avoid lane closures and back up the heavily traveled road.
Dye informed the council that PG&E has plans to replace a gas line going west on Whitmore Avenue toward Morgan Road but not until next year.
PG&E has been in discussions with Stanislaus County and the cities of Ceres, Turlock, and Hughson since December.
An open house may be conducted at each city.
When asked where staging areas might be, Dye noted that the empty lot opposite Ceres High School is a possible location.