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CRA looks to cut costs with underground power lines work

By Staff | Aug 4, 2010

Potential cost reductions for the underground transmission line project in the CRA have caused stakeholders pause in order to reexamine the route, but with time running short there may be little chance to make any changes before construction begins.
During a special meeting on Tuesday night, CRA board members unanimously supported saving money on the $4.3 million project if possible.
City engineer Oliver Clarke told the board there were more than $600,000 in potential savings.
Clarke suggested Southeast 47th Terrace as a possible alternate, but the board did not support or deny any alternate routes.
Clarke also suggested that asbestos wrapped pipes underneath the ground along Southeast 46th Lane — the route selected by City Council for the transmission line — could drive the cost beyond the $4.3 million price tag.
There could be over 100 places where the new transmission lines could cross asbestos piping along Southeast 46th Lane, Clarke said.
“That could cause us to have costs we have not yet identified on the job,” Clarke said.
With only $4.5 million to spend on the project, CRA officials are being cautious that costs don’t run out of control.
CRA Chairman Don Heisler said the contract between LCEC and the city allows for evaluation of the best possible route.
Heisler said the bad blood between LCEC and the city that festered around the project for more than decade is no longer an issue, and the job now is to see how much money can be saved.
He added that the project is still moving forward.
“We’re at a good place. The politics of whether it’s going above ground or underground is over,” Heisler said. “The best bet now is to figure the most cost efficient route.”
LCEC officials say that changes to the project at this stage may cause not only cost increases but risk reliable service to the city.
LCEC has long maintained that new transmission lines are long overdue, and service would be in jeapordy until a new line is established.
LCEC spokeswoman Karen Ryan said design work on the project has already begun, despite the fact that Clarke told the CRA Tuesday night that design work has yet to commence.
Ryan could not confirm that changing locations would result in significant cost savings for the city.
“I’m not sure where that figure came from,” Ryan said. “But if we have to go back to the location phase, it’s going to delay the project and it’s a risk we don’t want to take.”
Councilmember Marty McClain, council liaison to the CRA, said LCEC is merely being asked to explore the opportunity for the city to save money.
While he didn’t think it is entirely possible to “change locations mid stream,” he did say LCEC appeared willing to explore the possibility.
“We are asking LCEC to make sure in getting the final design components to at least open their minds to an alternate route that could result in savings of time and money,” McClain said.
An alternate route suggested by Clarke would bring the final ariel pole down to the southwest corner of Southeast 47th Terrace, and then proceed down Southeast 47th Terrace to the LCEC substation.
CRA Executive Director John Jacobsen said the majority of businesses along Southeast 47th Terrace would not be impacted by the construction should the route change.
Jacobsen said Tuesday it was too early to know if a new route was viable, and for now the CRA board simply supports saving money.
“This route may have merit, it may not, we just don’t know,” Jacobsen said.