BAR HARBOR — Crews have been setting new utility poles along Knox Road and a section of Route 3. The poles are part of a reliability improvement effort for power company Emera Maine. New transmission lines from the Knox Road electrical substation are planned to connect to the new downtown substation currently under construction on Prospect Ave. Flaggers have been out, but in most cases, equipment is far enough on the road shoulder that two-way traffic can continue.
Because the poles are used by both Emera and telephone company Fairpoint Communications, the two firms divide up their service areas for the purposes of pole work, Emera project manager Kendra Overlock explained. “This is their area to set poles, based on typical utility practices.”
Delivery and setting of the new poles is Fairpoint’s responsibility, but Emera has been doing some of the necessary tree trimming, she said.
“We’ll come in behind them. In the middle of November, we’ll have a crew framing the poles, putting cross pieces up and running the two electric circuits. Where there is communications cabling, Fairpoint will transfer them over to the new poles.” Their goal is to have the project complete and the old poles down by April, she said.
In some places where pole placement was near active lines, the new poles have temporary orange or yellow insulating blankets in case of accidental contact with the wires.
Emera received permission from the town for the Knox Road section of the project because it’s a town road. Poles are being installed on Route 3 between the intersection with Knox Road and Ireson Hill, near the Pirate’s Cove miniature golf course. Utility planners are working with the Maine Department of Transportation (DOT) on plans for the remainder of Route 3, which is slated to be rebuilt beginning next fall.
“We’ve started construction on the transmission line during the season when traffic is quite a bit lighter,” Overlock said. The current phase stops at Ireson Hill, which is where the future DOT project to rebuild Route 3 begins.
“We’re gonna get that in and done before the road project starts so we don’t have multiple construction projects going on at the same time. The portion of the line that falls within the DOT rebuild project will likely be under construction in late fall/early winter 2016, and we hope to have completion by June of 2017. This has been our original goal and should not be affected by any potential delays in the DOT construction project.”
A community advisory committee working with Emera on the transmission line project was separate from a similar advisory group for the downtown substation, Overlock said, but it has many of the same members. The first proposed route for the transmission lines, along the Crooked Road, drew a formal complaint from citizens to the Maine Public Utilities Commission.
With the advisory committee, Overlock said, Emera “used a decision criteria process where we really looked thoroughly at traffic counts, pros and cons of constructability on both routes. Route 3 has bigger shoulders so can get our trucks off to the side. It has fewer corners and angles than the Crooked Road. We looked at environmental impacts, scenic and visual impact.” Route 3 came out as the best option, she said. The PUC complaint was dismissed last June.
“We’re really excited that we’re starting the construction phase because this has really been a community effort to get it to this point. Now we’ll start to see the benefit of all our hard work.”