A repaving project on South Sparks Street in State College hasn’t begun early. It won’t start until late summer or early fall.
Instead, borough public works crews are ripping up parts of the road on the 700 block.
It’s part of a process that ensures what lies beneath — that is, sanitary sewer pipes — is in good condition so new roads don’t have to be torn up for a later problem.
“What we do is when we resurface a street, we check the infrastructure,” said Eric Brooks, public works operations manager. “We televise all the pipes, look for route infiltration. Is there a hole in the pipe? Are there offset joints?”
Brooks said that the sanitary pipes below sections of South Sparks are made of terracotta — clay-based ceramic — that meet up with iron pipes and fittings. The terracotta pipes probably date back to the 1920s or ’30s, he said. Their typical lifespan?
“About 50 to 75 years,” said Brooks. The pipes on Sparks could be nearly a century old.
On Sparks, there are two sections needing replacement, Brooks said.
The work crews typically perform this kind of work during colder, non-paving months, he said.
The area of Sparks from West Hamilton Avenue to Westerly Parkway will be closed until Thursday, which is the end of spring break for State College Area School District.
Despite its status as a neighborhood road, South Sparks is generally high-traveled during school drop-off and pickup hours. It’s just a block or so from the high school.
“We picked spring break, as (Sparks) is a main collector for the school, since it’s so close to the school,” Brooks said. “Obviously, the kids are off Monday through Wednesday, and we’re trying to get that done Thursday.”
The cold weather hasn’t had a role in the pipe’s conditions: They are 6 to 9 feet underground.
However, the frost line this year — that is, how deep the frost penetrates the ground — was about 32 inches, Brooks said.
“It’s been a long time since we’ve seen that,” he said. “Probably the early ’80s or late ’70s.”
The sanitary pipes come to the curb from the street’s homes and will be fitted with 4-inch PVC — or polyvinyl chloride — replacements, which connect to 6-inch PVC, which the borough supplies, Brooks said.
What that means is the pipes are right under the curb, so much of the curb will have to be torn up as well as lawn and, of course, pavement, he said.
So, if there’s a bend in the road — and there is — the pipes won’t curve. Those areas will be torn up.
“The shortest distance between two points is a straight line,” he said.
It’s a necessary inconvenience, Brooks said.
“We go into the neighborhood and go door to door, knocking,” he said.
“We let them know of the expectations, and then we try to accommodate them.”