Umstead Drive between Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Umstead Park will remain closed to through traffic until this fall due to OWASA’s sewer replacement project.

The Town of Chapel Hill and the Orange Water and Sewer Authority (OWASA) encourage drivers, cyclists and others to use alternate routes around the sewer project. The closure will affect access to Bradley Road, Pritchard Avenue Extension, and other nearby streets. The driveway to Umstead Park will be accessible from Estes Drive Extension and the western part of Umstead Drive.

Access to the sewer work area is limited to:

  • the contractor and contractor’s employers, suppliers and subcontractors;
  • residents who have driveways in the work area; and
  • service vehicles, including emergency service vehicles.

Residents who are authorized to walk and drive to homes in the work area are advised that they should be observant at all times and otherwise be very careful. Safety is OWASA’s highest priority. The area is a major construction site and hazards exist. The contractor is using heavy equipment, transporting heavy material such as large iron pipes, digging deep trenches where pipes will be installed, and doing underground blasting. The work area is uneven and has piles of soil and other material.

 Background information

Location map

Please click here for the OWASA webpage including map showing the area of Umstead Drive that is closed, the location of the sewer installation, Umstead Park, etc.

Park and Greenway Access

Access to Umstead Park and its adjacent Tanyard Branch greenway trail is affected during the sewer installation. Parking at Umstead Park is restricted to about 10 spaces. The youth ballfield is closed. The remainder of the park is open. The park will be completely closed later this summer for about two months. The date of total closure will be announced.

Transit services

Chapel Hill Transit routes A, N, JN (Saturday) and T (Saturday) will be detoured during the closure. Bus stops along Umstead Drive, Pritchard Avenue Extension, Longview Street and Bradley Road will be closed. For additional details, please visit or contact Chapel Hill Transit at 919-969-4900 or Additional detours and stop closings are expected as the project progresses. The detours will increase travel times for customers in the affected area. EZ Rider service will not be affected by the project. 

Future closing of the Umstead Drive-Village Drive intersection

OWASA’s contractor also plans to close the intersection of Village Drive and Umstead Drive for about one month starting in the mid- to late fall or early winter. This estimated timetable is subject to change due to weather and other factors.

Need to replace the sewer

The project is needed because wastewater flow in the existing sewer is approaching the pipe’s capacity. If wastewater flow exceeds a pipe’s capacity or is blocked, untreated wastewater would overflow from a manhole and could affect Bolin Creek. The existing sewer is also deteriorating as it ages.

“We recognize that this road closing will affect many people in the nearby neighborhoods and in the community, and we ask for everyone’s understanding and patience as our contractor moves forward with this very important project. Preventing wastewater overflows is one of our highest priorities,” said Stuart Carson, Engineering Manager for OWASA’s capital improvement program.

Carson emphasized that the duration of the road closing to through traffic is subject to change because of weather conditions, the amount of underground rock that will need to be removed so the sewer can be installed, and other factors

Kinds of work being done

About 6,100 feet of new sewers along Umstead Drive and Bolin Creek and 2,500 feet of new water pipe in Umstead Drive. The $4.85 million of work involves:

  • digging a trench, installing pipes and refilling the trench.
  • blasting to fracture remove underground rock so it can be removed where the new sewer will be installed. 
  • noise, dust and mud. 
  • temporary restriction on access to a driveway in the work zone during installation of pipes in front of the driveway. 
  • arrangements by the contractor so that sanitation, recycling, postal deliveries, etc. can continue in the project area. 
  • temporary planned and unplanned interruptions of utility services such as water and sewer. The contractor will inform residents in advance of planned service interruptions.
  • restoration of street pavement and sidewalk areas, and regrading the soil and planting grass in off-street work areas where sewer will be installed
  • normal work hours between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. on weekdays.
  • pumping wastewater around the contractor’s work area from mid-June to mid- to late August on a 24-hour basis.

Engineers estimate that the project could be completed by late January 2012, but they emphasize that weather and other conditions may affect the progress and duration of the project.

For more information:

OWASA (questions about the project purposes, location, contractor’s activities and schedule, detour signs and related matters)

Town of Chapel Hill (questions about the impact of the project on Town services and facilities)  

The Town and OWASA will send e-mail updates to anyone who signs up at Select “Chapel Hill eNews.”