The construction in Downtown Bangor at the confluence of State, Harlow and Exchange Streets. Credit: Gabor Degre

Road crews are halfway finished unearthing and replacing Civil War-era sewer and stormwater lines at one of Bangor’s busiest downtown intersections.

“We’ve tried our best not to disrupt anything. I think the worst of it is over,” Public Works Director Dana Wardwell said of the work, which began in April and has at times narrowed travel on Exchange, State, Harlow and Hammond streets to one lane, and led the city to temporarily reconfigure Park Street to one-way traffic.

The roadwork, which is expected to wrap up in October and November, is the most substantial project Bangor Public Works will complete this year, and is a continuation of a larger endeavor that began last October, Wardwell said. The roughly $2 million stormwater and sewer line replacement project is being shouldered by the city and the Bangor Water District.

Excavation started on Hammond Street east of the Kenduskeag Stream bridge last year. This year, crews have continued down York, French and Somerset streets. From the west, work began on State Street and spread through the intersection onto Harlow Street, Wardwell said. The contracted crews still have to replace lines on Park and State streets.

Underground piping, especially downtown, is some of the oldest infrastructure left in the city, Bangor Water District General Manager Kathy Moriarty said. Unless there isn’t enough room, it’s often easier to leave the old piping and build around it, she said. Most of what has been replaced for this project is brick and thick-walled cast iron that was installed between 1850 and 1920.

City Engineer John Theriault said he’s willing to bet that most larger Maine cities still harbor some sewer and stormwater lines laid by residents’ great-great-grandparents. They’re relics, but because of their abundance Theriault isn’t sure whether those pieces of history are worth preserving once they’re removed.

“We’d have an awful lot of relics at this point,” he said. “I don’t know if there’s a whole lot of sentimental value anymore.”

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