Richland Avenue road work damage linked to Frontier service outage

By Conor Morris

About 500 Athens Frontier Communications customers are likely still without service today (Internet or phone) after Frontier announced Tuesday that a city of Athens road project damaged under-road utility cables.

Dave George, general manager of Frontier Communications in southern Ohio, said Tuesday that he anticipated service to be restored to the customers in seven to 10 days. He explained the service outage resulted from damage to Frontier’s cables underneath Richland Avenue, which occurred in June or July of this year. The damage just took a while to manifest itself in a service outage.

At the time last summer, George said, the city contractor hired for the Richland Avenue rehabilitation project (completed in November), Shelly and Sands of Zanesville, parked a “30-ton excavator” on top of some of Frontier’s ductwork, which damaged the ducts.

Andy Stone, city engineer and public works director, said it’s likely a portion of Frontier’s facilities were damaged during the Richland Avenue project, which he called “very complex,” and involved each utility company with utilities underneath the roadway moving or relocating their lines. Stone explained, and George corroborated, that Frontier’s lines underneath the road are very old, possibly existing underneath the roadway as far back as the 1950s.

“We had good cooperation all around, from Frontier, the contractor we were using, Shelly and Sands and the city,” George said. “We were all in regular communication; they just had a lot of work to do for the sewer relocation project (utility work during the Richland project).”

George said he expects some customers’ service to be back sooner than the 7-10 day estimate. Frontier is currently waiting on new cables. Once those arrive (they had to be special ordered), he said, Frontier will work “around the clock” to replace the damaged cables.

Essentially, what happened, George explained, is the cables were “short-circuited” by water seeping onto them through the paper sheathes that surround them. These are normally protected by a current of air pressure between the sheathe and cables. The cables/sheathes are housed in terracotta ducts, which probably broke due to the excavator being parked above, George said.

George said the issue still needs to be discussed with various insurance companies, so he isn’t sure about what the total cost will end up being or who will be liable. He said typically the cost associated with the damage is assessed to the contractor who did the work, and not the city.

“They (Frontier) definitely experience the same problem that other utility providers experience, which is very old infrastructure,” Stone said. “It’s difficult to maintain.”

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