Our Town with William Kelly: Townwide utility burial on a steady course

William Kelly  |  Our Town  |  Utilities  |  May 23, 2023

The town continues to power through its 10-year, $128 million initiative to bury all overhead electrical, phone and cable television lines on the island.

Digging began in 2017 with the goal of reaching completion by 2027. The project was carved into 15 construction zones, referred to as phases, throughout the island so the mammoth project would be easier to manage.

Construction is complete in four of the 15 phases and virtually complete in a fifth, according to a report Town Engineer Patricia Strayer delivered to the Town Council for its May 9 meeting.

Construction has reached various degrees of progress in six other phases and is approaching completion in two of those, according to Strayer’s report. It has not started in the remaining four zones, three of which are still under design.

“We are taking big steps, but the thing that everybody wants to see is the [utility] poles come down and [the roads] restored,” Strayer told the council.

The town launched the undergrounding enterprise with the goal of having a utility system that would be safer, more reliable, and aesthetically superior to an overhead system. The work has required close coordination with Florida Power & Light, AT&T and Comcast.

Mayor Danielle Moore said Monday that progress has been steady, with staff keeping a careful watch over the entirety of the work.

“I wish the pace was faster, of course, but’s it’s a complex project with many variables, some of which the town has no control over,” Moore said.

Strayer said two years ago that it had reached an important milestone, when roughly half of the entire project was either completed, being built, or placed under contract.

In her memo to Moore and the council, Strayer outlined the status of each of the 15 phases.

Phase 1 North, from the Palm Beach Inlet south to Onondaga Avenue, was completed in March 2019.

Phase 1 South, from the southern town limit north to Sloan’s Curve, was completed in April 2020.

Phase 2 North, from Esplanade Way to Ocean Terrace, was completed in October 2020.

Phase 2 South, from Sloan’s Curve to the intersection of South Ocean Boulevard and South County Road, is 96 percent complete. Utility pole removal is scheduled to start this month.

Phase 3 North, from Osceola Way to the north side of La Puerta Way, was completed in September 2021.

Phase 3 South, from the intersection of South Ocean Boulevard and South County Road to the alley south of Worth Avenue, is 84 percent complete, with almost all equipment installed. Utility poles could be removed as early as November.

Phase 4 North, from the south side of La Puerta Way to the north side of List Road, is 93 percent complete. All equipment has been installed. Comcast and AT&T are finishing their work. Pole removal should begin this month, and street paving should be complete by November.

Phase 4 South, from Peruvian Avenue to Royal Palm Way, is 41 percent complete. All drilling and disruptive work will be done by November. The town is working with the contractor to get sidewalks poured as soon as possible.

Phase 5 North, from Country Club Road to Southland Road, is 68 percent complete. Poles should come down by the end of the year.

Phase 5 South reaches from South Lake Drive/Hibiscus Avenue to Peruvian Avenue/Royal Palm Way and includes properties between the Lake Worth Lagoon and the Atlantic Ocean from Royal Palm Way to Seaspray Avenue. It is 48 percent complete. All drilling and disruptive work will be completed by November. Utility poles should be taken down by June 2024.

Phase 6 North, from Chateaux Drive and Kawama Lane to the south side of Plantation Road, is 8 percent complete. Poles should be removed by mid-2024 if the work remains on schedule and there are no significant storms that could divert resources away from FPL switching and utility conversions.

Phase 6 South is from Seaspray Avenue to south of Royal Poinciana Way. Construction has not begun in earnest and has been delayed while efforts are focused on completing work in phases 4 and 5 south.

Phase 7 North is from the Palm Beach Country Club north to the south side of List Road. The design is 90 percent complete and on schedule. Construction bid packages are expected to be issued in the next 60 days.

Phase 7 South is from Atlantic Avenue north to Via Los Incas and Sanford Avenue. The design is 85 percent complete and on schedule. Construction bid packages should be issued in the next 60 days.

Phase 8, from Royal Poinciana Way north to Everglade Avenue, is the only phase not divided into north and south portions. The design is 38 percent complete and on schedule. Nearly 90 percent of the construction easements still must be approved.

Strayer said she will be back before the council in August with an in-depth update on the status of phases 7 north and south and Phase 8.

Deputy Town Manager Bob Miracle said that, once the town has construction bids in hand for phases 7 and 8, it will have a more complete funding picture and will know whether those phases fall within budget expectations.

According to the latest construction cost summary provided by Strayer, construction cost proposals for all phases under construction currently total $53.1 million, which is about $2.1 million over the master plan estimate.



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