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Inner Loop fill progress is evident 

One of an occasional series

It looks like someone has set up camp on the former Inner Loop. But the small white tents are actually containment units for asbestos abatement. Workers inside the tents cut the asbestos out of the pipe, and then remove the pipe in sections and haul it away. The tents keep the deadly material from spreading.

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The work is part of a three-year project to fill in the Inner Loop from Monroe Avenue to Charlotte Street, which will create about six acres of land for development and reunite part of the east side of downtown Rochester with adjacent neighborhoods.

The project will cost about $21 million and should be completed by December 2017.

The big mounds of dirt you've undoubtedly noticed on the site — the dirt has been hauled in from construction sites around the county — are gradually shrinking as they're loaded onto trucks, dumped into place elsewhere in the project, and then smoothed by a bulldozer, says Stantec's Paul Winterkorn.

Winterkorn is senior construction administrator for Stantec, the design and engineering company that is overseeing the Inner Loop project.

It will take about 135,000 cubic yards of material to fill in the Loop, Winterkorn says, and about 90,000 cubic yards of it is either on site currently or in place. (For perspective, a large dump truck can carry about 10 cubic yards of soil.) Piles of dirt will remain on the site through the winter, he says.

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The dirt is compacted by a roller and is tested daily — sometimes more than once a day — to make sure it's compacted properly.

The Broad Street and Charlotte Street areas are nearly up to grade, Winterkorn says. Sometime soon, crews will set granite curb on the extended streets to get the areas ready for paving.

Underground work continues. The Broad Street bridge over the Loop was demolished, and new water mains, sewer pipe, and utilities have been installed, Winterkorn says.

Getting rid of the detour created as a result of the bridge demolition is a priority before work stops for the winter, he says.

Coordination is the most critical — and most difficult — aspect of the job, he says. Everything has to happen in a certain order. Crews have to complete the fill for the extensions of Broad and Charlotte streets, for example, before they take out the East Avenue bridge, Winterkorn says. And they have to open Union Street to two-way traffic before they shut down Pitkin Street.

And there are often surprises to deal with.

"Once you dig things up for the first time," Winterkorn says, "it may not be quite what you see on the drawings."

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Water mains or utilities, for example, may be at different depths or different places than you thought, he says, and you have to adjust your strategy accordingly.

Crews will work as long as weather permits, he says, which will probably be until around Christmas.

"After that, it's anybody's guess," he says. "If we have a winter like last winter, chances are we won't be doing much out there."

On an average day, between 12 and 15 workers are on the site, Winterkorn says, plus inspectors and crews working on the utilities.

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