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No more wires overhead? Hill’s electrical grid about to get $2 million overhaul

bird and wires

Originally uploaded by linder_seattle

An 18-month, $2 million project that will overhaul Capitol Hill’s electrical system is about to get underway.

Seattle City Light is currently in planning stages for a series of projects across the Hill that will focus on wiring upgrades, replacement of old equipment and moving much more of the Hill’s electrical wires underground.

The work will ultimately result in better electrical service on the Hill, said City Light spokesperson Scott Thomsen.”The goal is to keep the system reliable and dependable so you won’t experience unplanned outages.”

But getting there requires a year and a half of work and increased planned outages on Capitol Hill.

“Any time you go through to do maintenance work, there is going to be service interruptions,” Thomsen said. “If we’re going to take out the transformer, there’s nowhere else to bring the power in from.”

Thomsen said there will be notifications sent out in project areas in advance of any planned service disruptions. City Light workers will go door to door with door hangers prior to smaller projects. For more significant work, the city department will send out letters with project details.

One of the most significant components of the upgrade will be replacing pockets of old wiring that are still serving Capitol Hill customers. The standard for electrical wires is 26,000 volt capacity — parts of the Hill are still served by 4,000 volt wiring, Thomsen said.

The upgrade will make the system better able to deliver service even when there are incidents when wiring is damaged and electricity needs to be re-routed, Thomsen said.

Thomsen also said the effort to move electrical wiring underground on Capitol Hill will not result in a 100% below ground system but that much more of the Hill’s wiring will be buried by the time these projects are complete.

As for a start date, City Light is still working that out but Thomsen said wet wintery weather will not be a factor. “We work twelve months a year,” Thomsen said. “We work through all weather.”

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8 thoughts on “No more wires overhead? Hill’s electrical grid about to get $2 million overhaul

  1. Uh oh; this is about where someone comes in and complains about the unsightliness of the trolley wires. wait for it….wait for it…

  2. I have to imagine that burying electrical wires would have to involve some pretty serious road work (i.e. tearing up sidewalks). Has City Light coordinated with SDOT to coordinate this with sidewalk / road improvements? It would be a lot cheaper to do a sidewalk project and an electrical project all at once rather than doing them separately. This is particularly important on key arterials like 15th, Pike-Pine and even 12th.

  3. Seriously, I can’t imagine that little money is going to upgrade, much less bury, very much cable. The CHS logo will remain relevant.

  4. I noticed that there’s no overhead wires near the library on Harvard at Republican. I noticed since I used to lock my bike to one of the guy wires and that’s gone.

  5. Yea, like they coordinated the rework of Union and Harvard… Work 3 days, take a month off, work 3 days, take a month off, etc. A project that should have taken 2 months ended up taking more than a year.

  6. “Work 3 days, take a month off, work 3 days, take a month off, etc. A project that should have taken 2 months ended up taking more than a year.”

    Well thank you, Mr/Ms. electrical and civil engineer. ;-)

    It might come as a surprise to you, but there’s more to Seattle than just your little corner of Capitol Hill, and sometimes those other areas need attention as well. Thus, no one is taking any days off.

  7. city light doesn’t necessarily need to dig up the street as there is equipment that will tunnel under streets and sidewalks “pulling” the wire behind it. i saw it used in tampa all the time for things like power lines and smaller water and sewer lines.

    i imagine with the cost of construction coming down and contractors being more competitive in these still tough economic times that it’s POSSIBLE that city light could do this for $2M.