The $500,000 road reconstruction project has been delayed because of a three-quarter inch PG&E gas line underneath a wood covering was not where it was expected to be. The location was correct, but the depth was not.
PG&E's records told Belmont to look for it at about 30 inches down, instead it was at 12 inches. That is too shallow to accommodate the project that requires digging down three feet to replace the road.
"If PG&E is not able to do a relocation we have a contingency plan to work around the utilities," Belmont engineer Leticia Alvarez said. "That's not our preferred alternative; we'd like to have them lowered so we don't have to deal with them ever again."
Belmont says this kind of surprise is not uncommon; they also found telecommunications and water lines at a surprisingly shallow depth.
PG&E says forces beyond its control, like erosion and soil settlement can change the original pipe depth. That is why everyone, public or private, is encouraged to call PG&E before a construction project begins. Once the location is marked, hand tools should be used to dig.
"If customers or contractors are planning on doing any digging they need to call Underground Service Alert at 811," PG&E spokesperson Brian Swanson said. "That's a free service that's all utilities, not just PG&E."
But after the San Bruno explosion of a much bigger 30-inch transmission line a year ago and a blast and fire from a leaky 2-inch line in Cupertino last week, neighbors here are not happy about a line of any size sitting exposed next to a busy street for nearly two months.
"I don't think it should be downplayed at all; when these big rigs come in here with the blades on their plows, had they gone six inches lower we would have had a large bonfire," business owner Jack Turturici said.
"You'd hope they would come out immediately and take care of something that might be a danger to people," business owner Michele Ahuna said.
There are other concerns about the project. Business and property owners say they were left out of the planning process and they are concerned that property values will decline because they are losing street parking and that the design may cause traffic hazards.