Port Arthur updates street construction. Is yours on the current list?

Published 12:40 am Friday, November 19, 2021

City staff this week gave an update on the ongoing street construction while outlining issues that have slowed down various parts of the process.

“The council has informed me that streets is the No. 1 priority for the City of Port Arthur, and the largest share of the capital improvements for this year has been assigned to streets and has been assigned to streets for the last three years or so,” said City Manager Ron Burton.

The project in question was approved by Council in 2018 with the intention of spending $60 million over the course of 5-6 years to fix necessary infrastructure within the city. An independent contractor was hired to survey the streets and recommend which should receive priority.

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John Cannatella, the city’s recently hired engineer, led Wednesday’s workshop.

However, he stressed the need for better communication with utility companies in the future, after one project was halted by the discovery of an underground telephone line.

While working on 6th Street, contractors found a 4” AT&T telephone line buried under two slabs of concrete. The line runs from Memorial Boulevard to Houston Avenue. Had it been clipped during construction, it would have cut phone service to most of downtown, including City Hall.

“I’m not saying this to blame anybody, but I just want Council to be aware that this is a priority for me in the future — that we’ve got to do a better job of getting these utilities located before we go to construction,” Cannatella said. “Again, I’m not blaming anybody. We did our due diligence, we called 811. But we’re going to have to do a better job in the future, because as we get contractors under construction and they encounter these things, it leads to delays in the design. We do not want that.”

The number he referenced is the national “Call Before You Dig” hotline designed to locate dangers underground.

The buried phone line was likely missed, Cannatella said, because of the concrete it was buried underneath.

“In my past it’s a communications issue. 811 is a great system and it’s supposed to shed some form of liability…but there’s nothing better than contacting these gentlemen, these companies…getting engineers involved early,” he said.

Councilman Thomas Kinlaw agreed, questioning who would be at fault — the city or the contractor — if an error such as that were to be made.

City counsel said the contract would likely address such liabilities.

Cannatella also addressed a $2.9 million contract for road repair in Port Acres.

“The contractor right now is about 49 percent complete, but he’s expended 67 percent of his time so he is behind,” the engineer said. “We’re going to be working to get that completed by March 1.”

Councilman Cal Jones said he’s seen Cannatella and staff talking with contractors to keep them on task, and is pleased with the increased progress towards the street improvement program.

“I’m glad to hear you say Lakeview Park is up and moving,” Jones said. “That’s sweet music to my ears. I’ve been waiting for the project for about 4.5 years. It got to where it was stressing me out. People were calling me, and I ran out of answers. But I’m glad to know it’s up and going. I pass by there every day and see it. I like what I’m looking at. I’m excited about it.”

Cannatella promised council monthly updates as the projects continue.

For a list of streets under construction during this fiscal year’s phase, click here.