TRAVERSE CITY — City utility officials are resurrecting a once-contentious plan to replace an electric line along Wayne Street, a move that could affect Traverse City Light & Power customers’ future electric rates.
Officials for the city-owned utility proposed to replace a transmission line that runs down Wayne Street west of Division Street as part of their capital improvement plan. Utility officials dropped a similar effort in 2008 after vocal objections from neighborhood residents, but Tim Arends, TCL&P executive director, said there continues to be a need to upgrade the old line .
The line connects to a substation on Gray Road and the wire is too small to meet the electrical load required of it, utility officials said.
“It’s unacceptable never to do anything with it,” Arends said. “This is a reliability issue that will never go away and must be dealt with one way or the other.”
Arends proposes to replace the wire with a larger gauge and replace the poles with new ones about five to 10 feet taller.
Both the old and new line would carry 69,000 volts but the flow of current, or amperage, is hindered by the smaller, old wire similar to how a small pipe restricts the flow of water.
“It’s equivalent to having a garden hose hooked up to a fire hydrant,” Arends said.
A similar proposal received significant push-back from Wayne Street residents in 2008 who argued that transmission lines either don’t belong in neighborhoods or the lines should be run underground, Arends said.
The joint Traverse City and Garfield Township recreation authority that operates Hickory Meadows also objected to replacing the line through the park in 2008 and will revisit the issue when it meets on March 5.
Utility officials looked at several different options in 2008 that ranged from burying the line through Hickory Meadows and along Wayne Street to moving the line to M-72 and running it down to Grandview Parkway.
Replacing the line where it stands would cost an estimated $1.5 million, compared to $5 million to bury it along Wayne Street, and up to $15 million to move it to M-72 and run it underground along Grandview Parkway. Those costs would be spread across all customers and the utility board would then have to consider burying all of its transmissions lines that run through neighborhoods.
“You can do anything if people are willing to pay for it, but it goes directly to rates,” Arends said.
Burying the line wouldn’t displace poles because they also carry the lines that distribute electricity to homes, Arends said.
Pat McGuire, chairman for the utility board, lives about a block and a half from the transmission line and said he’s hearing from some residents, as have other board members. About eight residents also showed up to ask questions at a board discussion session this week.
“They went through a big hullabaloo in 2008 and they want to know what’s going on and some of them are just opposed to anything going in along Wayne Street,” McGuire said.
Board members will vote on the capital plan when they meet Feb. 25 at 5:15 p.m. in the governmental center. The capital plan then goes to the city planning commission and the city commission for their approval.