By Christopher J. Russo, Former City Manager
(May 2, 2016) – Moving electrical and telecommunications lines from overhead to underground is a huge endeavor. It took years of planning and is costing millions of dollars. The benefit is a safer city. With power lines underground, they are not susceptible to damage from storms with high winds, car accidents, falling tree branches or other mishaps. Additionally, there is an aesthetic advantage of removing unnecessary poles and cables from city street.
We understand that the Undergrounding Project may cause some inconvenience to vehicular traffic in our City, but the long term benefits will far exceed this temporary disruption.
The experienced contractors continue to ensure that this project runs as smoothly as any project of this magnitude can. The nighttime work schedule has minimized the disruption to the daily lives of our residents and visitors.
As of this writing, the project has been progressing through the first phase smoothly. Contractors have been closing lanes of traffic to dig trenches and lay the conduit (numerous pipes) under Collins Avenue / State Road A1A. This work is performed at night between 9:00 p.m. and 6:30 a.m. Both northbound and southbound traffic will be open but will be limited during the work hours. Residents and visitors are advised to plan their travels accordingly during these hours.
Now going into the second month, the work started at the south end of the City and is progressing as expected to the north. This most disruptive phase of the project for the public has had minimal impact thus far. Working underground in a major roadway is one of the most challenging projects you can undertake. There is no certain way to know what you will find until you make that first cut in the asphalt. Although the consultants planned for the worst, we have been fortunate in that we have not found anything that would cause concern. The biggest challenge to date is ensuring that concrete and material deliveries arrive on time to complete the work in progress in order to reopen the road by 6:30 a.m. as planned.
Once phase one is complete, Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) will resurface Collins Avenue and improve crosswalks and some signalization. Then
the actual power and communication lines will be pulled through the conduit and conversion to live service can be transferred to the underground utility lines. The final phase of the Collins Avenue portion will include the removal of all unnecessary overhead poles and wires and the installation of new decorative street lighting including provisions for seasonal banners.