Some progress reported on burying Main, Greenfield hydro wires

John Dance

Back when Main Street south of Harvey Street was reconstructed, advocates within Old Ottawa East sought unsuccessfully to have the hydro wires buried.

The news today is much more positive for the northern section of Main Street and the first block of Greenfield Avenue as revised plans for the rebuilding of these roads include “undergrounding” of the hydro wires.

This new development in the planning of the so-called “GMH Project” (Greenfield, Main, Hawthorne) is in line with the Old Ottawa East Community Association’s request, according to OOECA Transportation Committee chair Tom Scott.

“The City should adopt this approach of undergrounding overhead wires and removing poles at every opportunity in the future, and to make it a policy-based default position for both the City and Hydro Ottawa,” Scott stated.

However, the undergrounding of wires on the Hawthorne Avenue portion of the project is still not recommended by City of Ottawa staff and Hydro Ottawa.

“Hydro Ottawa has indicated that they prefer an overhead facility along this corridor, and that the current arrangement fulfills their requirements and satisfies current electrical design standards,” says Patrick Sammon, the City’s engineer responsible for the GMH Project.

Undergrounding of Hydro wires on the northern part of Main Street and the first block of Greenfield Avenue is now viewed as the best option. Councillor Shawn Menard is also requesting that the wires be buried on Hawthorne Avenue when it is reconstructed. Map Adapted From City Image

Undergrounding of Hydro wires on the northern part of Main Street and the first block of Greenfield Avenue is now viewed as the best option. Councillor Shawn Menard is also requesting that the wires be buried on Hawthorne Avenue when it is reconstructed. Map Adapted From City Image

“We appreciate your preference is to bury the overhead wires on Hawthorne Avenue,” Sammon wrote to Councillor Shawn Menard. “However, through our discussions with Hydro Ottawa, we have not identified a technical reason for burial and therefore Hydro Ottawa will not share the burial costs with the City.”

In the case of the northern part of Main Street and the first block of Greenfield Avenue, there were technical reasons that led Hydro Ottawa to support undergrounding of wires and to fund half the associated incremental cost with the other half paid for by the City.

This cost-sharing also happened with the undergrounding of wires on the recently reconstructed Elgin Street.

The estimated incremental cost of undergrounding hydro wires along Hawthorne Avenue ranges from about $600,000 to $1.3 million. Interestingly, according to figures provided to The Mainstreeter by the City, the estimated cost for undergrounding the wires on Elgin Street was about $500,000 less than the estimated cost of rebuilding the overhead service.

“I appreciate the city working with us to bury hydro lines on Main Street and Greenfield Avenue,” said Councillor Shawn Menard.

“We will continue to work to bury those hydro lines on Hawthorne as a traditional mainstreet. There are many benefits to doing so and the timing makes sense. As a continuation of Elgin Street and the ‘main entrance’ to Old Ottawa East, we want to see this area enhanced.”

The undergrounding of hydro wires contributes to a more resilient electrical system in the face of climate change, and also allows the planting of trees that will form a canopy on streets, says Scott, noting that the Nova Scotia power authority has made undergrounding the new provincial standard.

The GMH project is currently at the preliminary design phase and is expected to go to tender in late fall of 2020, pending funding approval. Major construction activities are scheduled to begin next spring. No date has been set for the next public consultation session on the project.

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