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Tampa continues to plug away at leaky water and sewer pipe fixes

A recent rash of water main breaks highlights the long run ahead for a massive overhaul of the city’s aging underground infrastructure.

TAMPA — After the cold snap around Christmas, water pipes started bursting around Tampa — 50 times in one week in Florida’s third-largest city.

As streets were closed to repair the breaks and residents were inconvenienced, officials said that the water coming from the city’s shallow reservoir on the Hillsborough River had cooled to under 50 degrees. All that cold water rushing into city water lines caused havoc, in no small part because many of those lines are so old, some dating back more than a century.

The city is entering the fifth year of a 20-year program to fix its aging pipes. The $2.9 billion program, dubbed PIPES (Progressive Infrastructure Planning to Ensure Stability), will also overhaul the city’s sewage and water plants and their distribution systems.

So far, 115 pipe projects are in construction, procurement, design or nearing completion at an estimated cost of $1.2 billion, according to city data.