The City of Somersworth reported not just one, but two water mains breaks on Thursday. The first was located on Green Street near the Franklin Street intersection and the second occurred on Main and Water Streets. The breaks were responded to quickly and both were repaired by 4.30 p.m. yesterday with the water subsequently turned on in the effected areas, per city officials.

The two breaks left some on social media questioning whether there had been more water breaks than usual this year. According to Mike Bobinsky of Somersworth Public Works (SPD), the amount of breaks “based on past year ... is about the same," he said.

“Somersworth, like many other cities have very old water mains/lines, ranging from 50 to over 100 years in many cases," Bobinsky said. "Sometimes when we experience wide shifts in weather conditions and temperatures it can cause shifting below the surface of the road which exacerbates the probability of water mains breaks in the 50 to 100-year-old lines.”

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According to the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) and their report on the U.S. infrastructure produced in 2017, the country as a whole will experience somewhere in the region of 240,000 water main breaks each year, so Somersworth’s breaks might not be unusual when looked at the larger scheme of things.

Infrastructure is something that the Somersworth City Council has been monitoring for several years, adopting what is known as, “The Complete Streets” approach to roads such as Main Street and Constitutional Way.

Complete streets, as the name suggests, requires looking at a street from a point of view of infrastructure as well as usability. In 2016, Somersworth completed two such projects. One on Indigo Hill road and the other on Memorial Drive. Not only was the paving tackled but also corroded and damaged water main and sewer pipes were replaced while the road was being dug up as opposed to simply tarring over the road surface as had been the practice for many years.

The city has one such road that is ready to receive the complete streets makeover; that street is Cemetery Road. The plan is to solicit construction bids for the project this winter and its projected that work will begin in the spring. There are currently two other streets in the city where preliminary design work and these are Main Street and Constitutional Way. The complete streets approach, according to Bobinsky, takes much longer to plan but in the long term leads to a city infrastructure that requires less maintenance.

Another project aimed at improving that same infrastructure is being undertaken by New Hampshire Department of Transport as they focus their attention on the Route 108 corridor that runs from Dover to the Rochester city line. This project, too, is still in the preliminary design phase and the hope is that will be completed throughout the winter of 2020.

The design itself would be finalized in the spring and continue through late 2023. Currently the project has an estimated cost of almost $114 million and construction would begin in the summer of 2024 according to Department of Transportation (DOT) consultants who were contracted by the DOT to assist in much of the projects design and public outreach. You can discover more about this project here.

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