Major Silver Spring water main project: 2 miles of pipes, 2 years of disruption

SILVER SPRING, Md. —  A major water main replacement project in downtown Silver Spring got underway this week and it’s going to mean ongoing disruption for residents and businesses there, as well as many people who drive through the area every day.

The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission plans to install about two miles of new pipes that run under Route 29/Colesville Road between Georgia Avenue and the Beltway.

The project won’t be finished until the spring of 2019, and it’s impossible to complete without closing one and sometimes two lanes of traffic along Route 29, planners say.

“There will be off-and-on lane closures for the duration of the project,” said WSSC spokeswoman Lyn Riggins. Most of the work will be completed between 9:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. during the week. There could also be some work on weekends and on weekday evenings after rush hour, she said.

Some days it’ll be northbound traffic impacted and some days it’ll be southbound that takes the brunt of the load, she said. In some cases there will also be restrictions in place in areas where people can normally park, so that work can continue.

The project will move from south to north over the next couple of years. Phase one got underway this week and will take place along Route 29 between Georgia Avenue and Sligo Creek Parkway.

“Coming up this week, there won’t be any actual digging,” Riggins said. “But you will see lane closures and you will see work out there. These types of projects start with crews out there marking all of the other utilities: the gas lines, the cable lines, the electric lines, so that we know exactly where to dig and we don’t disrupt the other utilities. After that the digging will start in earnest.”

Phase two is expected to start in July of 2018 and that work will run from Sligo Creek Parkway up to the beltway. The final phase is expected to get underway in January 2019, focusing on the area around Sligo Creek.

In some cases WSSC will have to turn off people’s water while temporary water lines are set up in the areas where work is being done. The utility promises that any planned shut-off will come with 48 hours notice, and will only extend for a short period of time.

Weather permitting, the whole project will be finished in the spring of 2019.

Pipes date back to the 1920s

The pipes that are being replaced have been in use for as much as 91 years, dating back to when Calvin Coolidge was president.

People who drive in the area on a regular basis are probably used to seeing water main breaks over the last several years, Riggins said. “The pipes in that area are old,” she said. “So it’s time to replace them.”

Gone will be the old cast iron pipes springing leaks all over the place. WSSC plans to use new materials Riggins said no other utility she’s aware of is using.

“We’re using ductile iron pipe, coated in zinc coating, and then put in a special protective bag if you will,” Riggins said. “It’s expected to last 100 years.”

“This will be an inconvenience, but no one should see work like this again in their lifetime,” she said.

WSSC plans to post their latest updates online on a special page for the project.


John Domen

John started working at WTOP in 2016 after having grown up in Maryland listening to the station as a child. While he got his on-air start at small stations in Pennsylvania and Delaware, he's spent most of his career in the D.C. area, having been heard on several local stations before coming to WTOP.

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