Pughsville drainage project moving forward

Published 9:51 pm Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Phase II of the drainage work coming for Pughsville will help lessen flooding, but it will be far from a cure-all.

City Public Works Director Robert Lewis and other city officials were at New Hope Baptist Church answering questions about the project during a design public hearing Nov. 30.

City Council is expected to get a look at the project in January, when it will decide whether to approve buying property in the area between Queen Street and Armstrong Avenue to put in a stormwater pond and also acquire easements to put in a closed-pipe system on John Street.

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“We pretty much know what impacts to properties are going to be necessary in order to build the project,” Lewis said. “That’s why we showed the community and asked for any feedback.”

The project, including its design, right-of-way acquisition and construction, is expected to cost just over $7 million — $2 million coming from American Rescue Plan Act money and another $5.034 million in city capital improvement money and Virginia Department of Transportation revenue-sharing money.

Lewis said the project will help Pughsville when it rains by reducing flooding, reducing water levels in storm ditches, improving access to the neighborhood and by receiving stormwater quality credits for stormwater cost reduction on future projects.

Plans are for the pond “to be an amenity to the community, to make it safe,” Lewis said.

The city has other wet ponds downtown that have aeration in them to help keep the water clean,

and the pond going in Pughsville will be aerated also. There are also some located along highways where the city is less concerned about how they look and more concerned about how they function. Lewis said the one in the community will be designed to have a balance between being functional and aesthetically pleasing, while not being a safety hazard.

“This is … the first one we’ve built in a neighborhood,” Lewis said.

While the project will be on the Suffolk side of Pughsville, some drainage work will eventually take place in the Chesapeake part of the community, also. About 330 acres of Pughsville is in Suffolk, with another 70 acres in Chesapeake, which along with VDOT, is working with the city on mitigating flooding in the community.

The ultimate outfall, or where the water empties out, he said, is near the end of John Street and goes under the interstate. He said VDOT has cleaned some culverts underneath the interstate to improve the water flow. Once the water crosses Interstate 664, it comes back to a natural drainage way on the Chesapeake portion of the area.

Lewis said Chesapeake is pursuing drainage work in Pughsville also, but a sticking point is that the pipe under the Commonwealth Railroad is the final impediment before the water falls out into the Elizabeth River.

Chesapeake is trying to get permits from the railroad company to double the size of the reinforced concrete pipe from 36 inches to 72 inches while also flushing and cleaning six, 36-inch reinforced concrete pipes. Once Chesapeake has the permits in hand, it expects to take about nine months to complete that work.

In an August update from Chesapeake’s Department of Public Works, it noted capital improvements it is making in Pughsville, including work to increase the culvert size at Bruce Road by replacing existing 72-inch reinforced concrete pipe with two 84-inch reinforced concrete pipes. It also plans to regrade the ditch from the end of John Street to Pughsville Road to

In 2012, Suffolk’s Public Works department completed a study to identify measures to lessen the flooding under existing and future development conditions, with it recommending several improvement phases. In the already-completed Phase I, the city has added more culverts along Town Point Road.

Should council approve Public Works acquiring the needed land, Lewis said it would begin right-of-way acquisition in the spring and continue that process for the next year and put the project out for bid before beginning construction in late 2023, continuing for about 18 months.

Dozens of people turned out for the design public hearing and left comments, and more comments will be taken through the end of the year.

“This is just the second bite of a great big elephant that we have to eat,” Lewis said, the first being the culverts that have gone in across Town Point Road. “This is the second. There’s probably even a third or fourth or maybe even a fifth (phase) in the future that’s got to come.”

Future work after the second phase is likely to include areas north of John Street and the west side of Town Point Road. He also noted the non-public streets where residents have asked for improvements, but that is not in the current scope of any proposed work, Lewis said, though they could be at some point in the future.

But he said the current work is an incremental step toward lessening the impact of flooding on the area.

“We believe this is going to mitigate the worst areas of flooding in the Pughsville community, but it’s not going to eliminate all areas of flooding at this point with the project.”

Want to comment?

Anyone wanting to comment on Phase II of the Pughsville drainage improvements project can submit comments to the Department of Public Works, Attention: Luke Drylie, project manager, 442 W. Washington St., Suffolk, VA 23434.