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LCEC begins cable ‘undergrounding’

By Staff | Jan 27, 2012

It was 10 years in the planning but the project by Lee County Electric Cooperative and the city of Cape Coral to install underground cable through the city’s downtown got under way about midday on Thursday.

The first leg of the 1700-foot journey began on Southeast 46th Lane with tons of large electrical cable being pulled to the east to an area at Maria Pizza.

Traffic was not delayed during the project that brought about a dozen workers out for the job.

But before the cable could be pulled down into a manhole on Southeast 46th Lane, workers had to be sure the large coils would carry electricity.

The cable laying under the roadway was delayed for about half an hour when workmen used a special tester to show if current would travel through the long lines of cable before it was buried under the streets.

The first test showed some type of problem and workers went about to look over the cable and other equipment. The second attempt to test the 1700 feet of cable, all rolled up on the rear of a large truck, weighing several tons, went well with workers giving the “all go” sign to start the pulling of the cable down the manhole.

Before that, one of LCEC’s workers went down into another manhole a few feet away, to make sure the electric cable was going through what they called “vaults,” a device buried below the streets for the heavy cable.

While the project had been delayed for more than an hour, it got under way shortly after noon.

LCEC Project Manager Jeff Slabaugh said the phase would not take more than a couple of hours, once started. They planned to string two large cables through the vaults underground Thursday.

Karen Ryan, LCEC spokesman, said workers actually pulled through one of the cables though one of the three holes in the vault on Wednesday “in a test run.”

On the other end of the street some 1700 feet away equipment was on hand to assist in pulling the heavy cable through. At that point it will be attached to a transmission wire atop a pole.

Ryan said the heavy cable would have to be energized, a term meaning to run electricity through it, before it would be operational.

“We’ll be ready by storm season … by hurricane season for sure,” she said.

On Friday, the crew was expected back at the same site pulling more cable to the west on Southeast 46th Lane, down the street, and down an alley to a substation located at 9th Place and 46th Lane.

Construction was begun with trenches being excavated to install the conduit pipes which were encased in concrete. Ryan said the conduit is six inches in diameter.

She said the vaults or enclosures were installed to give workers access for any type of maintenance or repair.

Pete Wagner, who represented the Prysmian Co., a high voltage installer from S. Plainfield, N.J., was on site and said the high-powered cable would last at least 50 years or more.

“There’s no doubt that the coils will last,” he said with confidence.

The project was brought about some 10 years ago by the Cape’s Community Redevelopment Agency.

The cost of the project is $4.5 million with the city pitching in $600,000 for the project, Ryan said.

She said that in 2001 LCEC planners and electric system consultants decided that unless additional transmission facilities were built, customers in parts of Cape Coral might experience problems with their electric service. Ryan said with the installation of the new cables, reliable electric service can be expected in the homes and businesses in the south Cape area.

Holding a diagram, Ryan pointed to loops that connect one substation to another.

“With this project completed, it will give up a good transmission loop,” she said.

The spool of transmission cable wire sitting on a large truck weighed about 42,000 pounds. A heavy-duty rope slowly pulled the cable underground while one of the LCEC workers was in a manhole a few feet away to make sure it was being installed or pulled through correctly.

Ryan noted that the project will provide essential service to support the continued growth in south Cape Coral and reliability or the area.

She noted, too, that it will eliminate overloading of the existing transmission source during an outage and expedite restoration of service by minimizing duration and isolation of outage.

“It will prove improve power quality, and that’s what the city wanted,” she said.