Backhoes and bulldozers have been digging and moving dirt along the northern edge of Groveport, preparing the way for a new natural gas pipeline.

Residents have known about the work since 2016, when representatives of TransCanada/Columbia Pipeline Group Inc. began visiting property owners about the plan to upgrade transmission lines.

"We have heard only a few questions from residents unaware of the project," city Administrator Marsha Hall said about the work around East Bixby Road and the Hickory Grove subdivision.

According to information from TransCanada, the approximately $170 million B-System Project, which extends through Fairfield and Franklin counties, includes construction of approximately 7 miles of new pipeline and the replacement of an existing 13.8-mile pipeline.

It also involves retiring a 17.6-mile pipeline and upgrades to what the company calls its ancillary B-System equipment and facilities, including replacing a total of 3,500 feet of pipeline at two different interconnect locations.

Work on the project started March 1 and is expected to be finished in October.

"The B-System has been slated for modernization because it includes vital natural gas supply lines for the Columbus metro area as well as for several towns and cities along the developing U.S. Route 33 corridor southeast of Columbus," TransCanada spokesperson Lindsey Fought said.

The work, which began early this year, stretches from Sugar Grove, southeast of Lancaster, to Fairwood Avenue in Columbus and should be completed by the second half of the year, Fought said.

Communities affected by the project include Columbus, Groveport, Canal Winchester, the village of Carroll and Lancaster.

The specific areas and work include:

* Retiring a 17.6-mile pipeline that runs from near Sugar Grove to Allen Road.

* Installing a 20-inch, 7-mile pipeline from near Coonpath and Old Millersport roads to a newly established interconnect near Coonpath Road.

* Replacing 500 feet of interconnect pipeline in Groveport.

* Replacing 3,000 feet of interconnect pipeline in Canal Winchester.

* Replacing 13.8 miles of pipeline from the Lockville interconnect east of Canal Winchester to Fairwood Avenue in Columbus.

"Residents may see an increase of commercial vehicles in the area, but we are striving to have a minimal impact on the environment, local landowners and communities throughout construction," Fought said.

The improvements will allow Columbia's pipeline integrity engineers to use state-of-the-art internal inspection devices called "smart pigs," which improve safety and reliability by providing detailed information about the condition and operability of the pipelines, according to an informational brochure about the project.

The U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission completed an environmental assessment study of the project before it started and allowed for public comment.

The Columbia Pipeline Group operates approximately 15,000 miles of interstate pipeline, gathering and processing assets that extend from New York to the Gulf of Mexico, including in the Marcellus and Utica shale production areas, according to the company.

It also operates one of the nation's largest underground natural gas storage systems.