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Local contractors looking to sewer project to fill gap left by stadium, terminal

February 16, 2009

Local contractors will be ready to pounce when bidding on the first parts of the combined overflow project begins in 2011.

They're hungry for more mega projects following completion last year of the $1.1 billion midfield terminal at Indianapolis International Airport and the $720 million Lucas Oil Stadium.

Members of the Indiana Construction Association are well aware of the $2 billion worth of related sewer projects over the next several years, said spokeswoman DeAnna Ellis.

"We will definitely be ready to quickly move forward once the projects have been awarded," Ellis said.

Jerry Larson, executive director of the Indiana Ready Mixed Concrete Association, said local contracting opportunities could approach the likes of Lucas Oil Stadium, the new JW Marriott hotel downtown and the airport terminal. Many concrete contractors are looking to make up for business lost with the downturn in residential construction, he said.

At this early stage, the $1.7 billion for the tunnel portion of the system is likely to shake out like this: $100 million for a new lift station at Southport, $180 million to build the nearly seven-mile deep tunnel between Southport and Belmont plants, $850 million for the 14-mile Fall Creek/ White River Tunnel, and $450 million in additional treatment plant upgrades.

City officials see perhaps $400 million in additional spending on sewer separation projects and improvements at Pogue's Run and Pleasant Run.

Some of those improvements will take the form of "green" projects. For example, city officials are looking at about 50 locations to build rain swales. These patches of vegetation and special grading would capture storm water runoff to minimize what flows into sewers.

The project will be funded largely through sewer fees. Some projections suggest average monthly residential sewer bills could jump to about $80 by 2025 from about $20 today.

If design proceeds on track, the city will start awarding major contracts on the first phase of the tunnel—the roughly seven miles between the two wastewater treatment plants—by May 2011.

Another phase, the deep tunnel running roughly under White River, is set for bidding by December 2015. The northernmost section, the Fall Creek tunnel, would be put out for bids by the end of 2017.

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