Winter Utility Work: Paving the Way for Quiet Summers


At Gewalt Hamilton Associates, Inc. (GHA), our project management philosophy emphasizes efficiency and maximizing community benefits, while always considering the needs of each community. As part of this philosophy, we assess the viability of scheduling utility work for roadway projects during the winter months. This is a strategy that focuses on leveraging the colder season to serve community interests better. Through a combination of in-depth analysis, technical knowledge, and insights into local conditions, we aim to provide tailored solutions that are aligned with each community’s needs.

Melinda/Hiawatha Utility & Street Improvement Project

Scheduling utility work to start in the winter months proved advantageous for the Melinda/Hiawatha Utility & Street Improvement Project in the Village of Buffalo Grove. This forward-thinking strategy allowed for the water main installation to start at the beginning of the construction season. By initiating this work in the colder months, we were able to proactively address and promptly resolve potential issues, thereby reducing the impact on the daily lives of community members.

This project exemplifies our ability to integrate design and planning with practical execution. Our decision to schedule utility work in winter was driven by an analysis of weather patterns, traffic flows, and community activities. Adapting our project planning to incorporate these factors allows us to provide solutions that are specifically tailored to the unique needs of each community we serve. The Melinda/Hiawatha Utility & Street Improvement Project’s success showcases GHA’s ability to transform off-peak periods into highly productive work phases, directly benefiting the communities we partner with.

“The Melinda/Hiawatha project shows our ability to analyze and adapt to local conditions, ensuring that our solutions are both timely and tailored to the unique needs of each community,” explains Lucas Deferville, Assistant Director of Construction and Survey Services at GHA.

Challenges Faced

While the success of the Melinda/Hiawatha project highlights our adeptness at delivering tailored solutions, it’s essential to recognize that even projects that face challenges provide important benefits. GHA’s role in the project also yielded valuable insights, shaping our future strategies. This project encountered an issue of frozen water services, leading to temporary disruptions in residents’ water supply. Facing this challenge highlighted the need for adaptability and innovative problem-solving. The situation highlighted the need for close collaboration, drawing upon our strong partnerships with contractors to develop effective solutions.

Image of utility work being performed. Three workers in high visibility vests performing utility work with an excavator at the intersection of Bernard and Hiwatha Drives in Buffalo Grove, Illinois.
Melinda – Hiawatha Project in the Village of Buffalo Grove, IL

This teamwork proved to be a pivotal element in the project’s success, leading to a valuable discovery: clay used for backfilling offers better insulation than frozen stone, a vital detail in preventing water services from freezing. While typically used to prevent settling, stone offers less insulation for water services than clay, which prevents them from freezing. This adjustment ensured that, by winter’s end and before paving, any potential trench settlement was effectively managed.

Navigating through winter’s challenges requires strategic planning, especially with snow removal. By collaborating with local public works, we manage snowfall effectively, ensuring projects stay on schedule during winter weather.

Through strategic scheduling and proactive planning, we can effectively navigate the winter’s freeze-thaw cycle. Careful planning addresses potential issues with frozen ground, ensuring equipment can successfully complete tasks in cold conditions. Similarly, proactive planning for utility work minimizes thaw-related issues, avoiding unnecessary messes and streamlining subsequent cleanup. This foresight significantly reduces extensive restoration needs, ensuring the project site and surrounding areas are ready for use by the community during the summer months. By adapting operations based on weather conditions, we help projects advance efficiently, despite the season’s obstacles, reflecting our adaptability and commitment to progress.

Winter Utility Work Benefits

Scheduling utility work during the winter has a substantial impact, facilitating the proactive identification and resolution of potential issues. This strategy significantly diminishes the risk of delays or unforeseen challenges in the main construction phase. “Our proactive approach in winter helps to identify and manage challenges early on. This not only streamlines work but also allows for direct benefits to the community,” comments Lucas, stressing the long-term benefits of this strategy.

Winter utility work also offers the advantage of reduced pedestrian traffic, which allows for smoother operations. Less foot traffic in the colder months means that work on the project can proceed with fewer potential disruptions. “The decrease in pedestrian activity during winter helps the execution of projects while reducing public inconvenience,” remarks Lucas, highlighting another strategic benefit of winter utility work.

Scheduling utility work to start during the winter months provides us with an opportunity to address critical infrastructure needs, paving the way for expedited progress in the subsequent construction periods. As a result, we are well-prepared to schedule road improvement projects to begin at the start of the construction cycle when the warmer seasons arrive. This timing plays a crucial role in minimizing disruptions, ensuring that roadwork and other infrastructure projects have minimal impact on the daily routines of residents, particularly during peak traffic periods. “Our goal is to schedule work intelligently, minimizing the impact on the public while maximizing the benefits to the public,” notes Leo Morand, P.E., Director of Municipal Services.

Community Benefits

The residents of the communities we serve gain the most from our winter utility work approach. As a result of planning utility work during the cold weather season, we align our projects better with community schedules. As temperatures rise and schools enter their summer holidays, residents will enjoy community spaces without the hassle of construction and road closures. “Our strategy is thoughtfully tailored to each community we serve, ensuring work aligns with times that minimize intrusion and maximize convenience for residents,” notes Leo.

An often-overlooked benefit of winter utility work is its role in reducing construction dust. The moisture prevalent in winter plays a key role in binding dust particles, significantly minimizing the impact on nearby residents and communities. Another overlooked benefit of winter utility work is its alignment with quieter periods in community activities, creating an environment where construction noise is less likely to be a disturbance. As a result of our strategic scheduling, restoration can begin with the arrival of spring, allowing communities to enjoy fully restored neighborhoods throughout the summer, with minimal impact from construction activities.

These timely improvements to infrastructure contribute to an overall improved quality of life and are a direct result of focused efforts during the winter months. “The feedback we’ve received has highlighted unexpected perks, like the joy of opening a window to a cool, quiet summer breeze, undisturbed by construction noise or dust,” mentions Brian Wesolowski, P.E., CFM, Director of Site Design Services. “The positive feedback we receive from community members confirms the value of our approach. It’s gratifying to see the benefits that this strategy brings to their daily lives,” says Brian, highlighting the impact of winter utility work for residents.

Maintaining Project Timeline

This strategic timing is crucial for keeping project timelines on track and effectively managing potential delays. By initiating utility work during the winter, we proactively tackle issues that could arise, addressing them before the busier, warmer seasons begin. This forward-thinking approach allows for smoother project transitions and directly benefits residents by minimizing disruptions during peak community activity periods, demonstrating our commitment to community-centric solutions and efficient project management. “Utility work in the colder months positions projects effectively for road improvements with the change of seasons,” remarks Brian. “Careful planning helps us maintain project timelines, allowing for steady project advancement.” By advising on strategic scheduling, particularly for winter utility work, we help guide projects toward timely completion, enhancing community infrastructure with minimal disruption.