(Lorain, Ohio) — Local businesses and workers are helping build Lorain’s giant new sewage conveyance tunnel that will run under the downtown between Broadway and the Black River.
The lead contractor building the 5,500-foot tunnel is Walsh-Super Excavator JV, a joint venture of firms based outside Ohio.
But when they work in Ohio they intend to hire local subcontractors to help, said Mark W. Hedrick, project manager for Walsh Construction.
“We definitely will be looking at local contractors who can perform work,” he said. “That’s always our goal.”
Contracts remain unfinished so Hedrick declined to say exactly who will work on the project, which consists of a tunnel running north from 14th Street to a site across from Lorain City Hall.
However, trucks from at least two local companies, Terminal Ready-Mix Inc. and Haslage Trucking, already have been visiting the job site south of 14th Street and east of Broadway.
“We were fortunate enough to be able to supply the new tunnel coming up here,” said Pete Falbo, co-owner of Terminal Ready-Mix Inc. “It’s probably a year and a half’s worth of work for us.”
The company will continue running its concrete batching plant at 524 Colorado Ave. through the winter to supply concrete for the tunnel. Normally, concrete works slows down in the winter, but mixing and hauling it for the tunnel will keep six to eight guys on the job, Falbo said.
“It’ll help us put some extra guys to work,” Falbo said. “We feel fortunate that we got it.”
The job also has sentimental value for the Falbo family, said Falbo and his nephew, John Falbo Jr., a third-generation builder with the company.
In 1952, Falbo Construction Co. patriarch Sam Falbo and his partners were the contractors who built the 625-foot-long, 30-inch diameter sanitary sewer tunnel under the Black River.
That pipeline connected the sanitary sewers of Lorain’s west side to the new Black River Wastewater Treatment Plant on the east side of the river. It was built to run 30 feet under the bottom of the river.
“They said it was so shallow, you could hear the propellers of the freighters when they went by,” Falbo said.
So far Haslage Trucking, of Lorain, has had five drivers and trucks hauling dirt away from the site and hauling stone in, said company President Charles Haslage.
“That will increase significantly as the job grows,” Haslage said. He anticipated hiring four or five more drivers based on hauling out the volume of dirt to come out of the ground.
“It’s still in the early stages, but it’s a pretty significant job,” Haslage said. “We’re pretty excited about it.”
They have been taking the dirt to Pearl Ave. LLC, a construction debris landfill operated by T.G. Eschtruth Inc., in South Lorain, Haslage said.
There are nine workers on the job who also are members of the Lorain Laborers Local 758, said Mark Scarberry, business manager for the union.
That number could grow to 40 workers once the crews reach the 180-foot depth to begin horizontal boring, Scarberry said. The horizontal digging will require more workers to get the dirt out and build the concrete pipe, he said.
“Once they get down and start tunneling, there’s going to be a conveyor system” that needs to be built, operated and maintained, Scarberry said. Outdoor construction in Ohio tends slows down in winter, so having year-round work is another benefit of the dig, he said.
“It’s going to be a very interesting project,” Scarberry said. “The good thing about it is, we’re going to have Lorain city residents and Lorain County residents employed on this project.”
Lorain’s administration and council prefer to have local businesses involved in public works projects, said
Safety-Service Director R. Michael Fowler.
The jobs help the city because workers often live in Lorain, pay taxes to the city and spend money with local merchants, Fowler said. Based on payroll and guaranteed work, “I don’t see how that would be bad for business,” he said.
The project includes a $2.09 million contract for Electrical Corp. of America for electrical work needed for the tunnel.
The company is based in Raytown, Mo., but maintains an office in Lorain for specialized electrical work in northern Ohio. ECA has done jobs for area industrial clients including Ford’s Ohio Assembly Plant and PolyOne Corp. in Avon Lake, Oberlin College and FirstEnergy, according to its website.
By RICHARD PAYERCHIN