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Filling the loop 

First in an occasional series.

Sections of sewer pipe, each about the size of a Smart car, lie end to end on the now-closed portion of the Inner Loop — snaking under the East Avenue-Broad Street exit sign before disappearing around a curve.

The pipe started going in last week, says Paul Winterkorn, senior construction administrator with Stantec Consulting Services. Stantec is overseeing the fill-in of the eastern section of the loop — a $21-million project that should create about six acres of developable land between Monroe Avenue and Charlotte Street.

The Inner Loop is a sunken channel — about 25 feet below street level — that surrounds downtown Rochester. It has over the course of its 60-year lifespan slowly strangled the city, officials say, by isolating downtown and carving up neighborhoods.

Winterkorn spends part of his day working out of a temporary office on East Avenue, but the bulk of his time is spent on the job site. It's been quiet, he says, but now that the pipe is going in, you'll really start to see some action.

"After we get the sewer in, it'll be pretty much a constant operation," he says.

About 30,000 cubic yards of fill has been trucked in so far from construction sites around the county. For perspective, a large dump truck can carry about 10 cubic yards of soil. The dirt is bulldozed off the top as truckloads come in, Winterkorn says, so more can be added to the pile, which is currently about 40 feet high.

The project will require about 100,000 cubic yards of fill in total, Winterkorn says. The soil will be compacted and tested to ensure its stability; oversized rocks and hunks of concrete get pulverized by a crusher.

"The soil won't compact around it if it's too big," he says. "It'll leave voids."

Some of the ground-up material sticks in the square spaces between the crusher's tank-like treads.

The utility work on the job is ahead of schedule, Winterkorn says. Rochester Gas & Electric is so far ahead that it has pulled people off the site, he says.

The rest of the three-year job is pretty much on target, he says. The completion date is December 2017. At peak times, Winterkorn says, more than two dozen workers from the project's main contractors will be working on the site.

The job requires careful choreography as well as raw power and heavy machinery. The project must be staged just so, Winterkorn says, to minimize disruption to the life and flow of the city. They have to complete the fill for Broad and Charlotte streets, for example, before they take out the East Avenue bridge, he says. And they have to open Union Street to two-way traffic before they shut down Pitkin Street.

"This type of project doesn't come around very often, of this kind of magnitude," Winterkorn says. "And there's a lot of different elements to it."

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