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April 24, 2014

Partial solution to Wayne Street line proposed

TRAVERSE CITY — A city commissioner carved one problem from a contentious proposal to upgrade an electrical transmission line on the city's west side.

Traverse City Light & Power will pursue a suggestion by city Commissioner Tim Werner to find a new path through Hickory Hills Ski Area for a transmission line that cuts across the ski slopes.

Werner this month suggested the city-owned utility run the lines along the borders of both Hickory Hills and Hickory Meadows, rather than bisecting them.

His main concern was skiers' safety, because the slopes contain both poles and guy wires.

"Kids love to ski through the area where those guy wires come down," Werner said. "We've been lucky so far."

The 50-year-old transmission line connects substations on Gray Road to Hall Street downtown. A proposal in 2008 to double the voltage the line carries raised an outcry in neighborhood around Wayne Street and from parks supporters.

Utility officials dropped the voltage increase and examined several options, such as rerouting the lines down M-72 to Grandview Parkway or burying them the entire distance along the existing route. The alternatives added from $5 million to $15 million to line replacement costs.

But no one ever considered rerouting the lines inside the parks until Werner suggested it, said Tim Arends, executive director of TCL&P.

"I thought that was a great idea and I've already talked to our engineers," Arends said. "They said we should be able to reroute it to improve safety for skiers."

Arends said utility officials will work with a group who is drawing new plans for Hickory Hills to identify a transmission line path.

Hickory Meadows may be a more complicated fix because the park is owned by the joint Garfield Township and Traverse City recreational authority. Authority officials opposed upgrading the transmission line in 2008 and want it either buried or rerouted out of the park. Board Chairman Ross Biederman said that position isn't likely to change.

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