Replacing Water Mains Through The Middle Of The University Of Nebraska

Campus Improvement
June 2012, Vol. 67 No. 6

Following the establishment of the University of Nebraska in 1869, its Lincoln campus was laid out on four city blocks. University Hall, its first building, was an imposing structure standing on the prairie, well away from the city’s center.

The campus rapidly expanded to accommodate the university’s growing role in education, and today’s Lincoln campus covers 624 acres, blending historic structures with modern buildings in a beautifully-landscaped setting.

Campus improvements seem to be continually under way, always with the concern that damage to the campus streets, landscaping and disruption of university activities be minimized.

A recent water improvement program had the potential of being extremely disruptive.

“It was necessary to replace old water mains through the UNL city campus to improve service for existing and future water needs of the university’s main campus and provide better maintenance access to the underground mains,” said Terry McArthur, P.E. senior professional associate of the national engineering firm HDR, engineers for the project. The Lincoln Water System was the project owner. Primary contractor K2 Construction made the directional drilling installations.

The route of the new pipe was through the middle of the campus with extensive surface improvements, including landscaped areas and green spaces with sidewalk corridors, some containing large trees, area lighting, brick walks and streets and a parking lot. Landmarks in or near the construction area were the “Walk of Champions” sidewalk, a full-size statue of a mammoth in front of the university’s Museum of Natural History and sports facilities, including Memorial Stadium, home of the Cornhuskers football team.

The university was concerned about disturbing the existing improvements, said McArthur. In addition, beneath these improvements were many buried utilities.

Multiple obstacles

Subsurface obstacles included the old water main and services, gas mains and services, sanitary sewer mains, chilled water lines, communication and power cables, and steam tunnels. Establishing the location of these facilities required extensive subsurface utility engineering during the design.

The design process was performed as a collaborative effort among HDR, Lincoln Water, Lincoln Public Works and the University of Nebraska.

“The project was designed and bid documents completed in three months,” McArthur said. “Coordination meetings were held weekly during design and even daily during construction.”