Friday, April 15, 2005

Changing Poles

And now I know how they change telephone poles. Our garage was inaccessible (and our front door nearly so) all day yesterday, while they put up a new telephone pole up next to the old one and swapped over all the cables and lines. It seems to be a pretty clumsy process--you dig a hole next to the old hole; you hoist the new pole using cables, a winch, and a bunch of guys in hard hats yelling things like "Yo! Hold up there!"; then you spend about six hours with guys in a cherry picker, first hanging a "limb" onto the new pole, complete with new resistor caps and insulation, and then carefully transferring all the wires to the new limb.

All this was happening outside YG's window, and they were still at it when she was shoveled into bed--with flashing yellow and red lights and yelling. So of course the child couldn't get to sleep, but knelt on her bed with her nose pressed to the window, as rapt as if she were watching Father Christmas make his rounds. Occasionally one of the hard-hat guys would wave or smile at her, and she was beatified.

I am still unclear as to the advantages of telephone poles, particularly in an area as seismically active as San Francisco. It may be the city girl in me, but they seem so un-urban. Gradually certain parts of the city are being "undergrounded," as PG&E calls it. But if they're investing in a brand new pole, I suspect our neighborhood is not going to be one of them.


Anonymous L.N. Hammer said...

"undergrounded"? Oy.

5:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From Dave Smeds:

Undergrounding (as a verb) power lines presents a lot of problems in terms of insulation, sealing away lines so that rats, squirrels, ants, and so forth don't chew through the insulation, and so forth. I've heard it costs a million bucks a mile to put power lines underground...if the lines were out in the country along a highway. In urban areas, you add all the problems and expense of cutting into sidewalks, gutters, sewer lines, streets, and hope to hell you don't sever a gas line while you're at it.

Does your new pole smell like creosote?

9:52 PM  
Blogger Maureen McHugh said...

Our lines are underground in our neighborhood. The neighborhood is twelve years old and it was developed that way. I doubt it cost a quarter of a million to do our subdivision. But I bet it would cost that much to do a quarter of a mile of Manhattan.

It's nice not to have visible wires. And since we get snow and ice, it means that our power outages are always from farther up the line where things go above ground. And we're always one of the first to get power back in bad weather.

7:44 AM  
Blogger Madeleine Robins said...

Dave, I haven't sniffed the pole, but it is dark with something I suspect is creosote. I will check and report back.

11:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dave Smeds added:

The places where I've seen the utilities underground (here in California) have tended to be the new subdivisions where they're developed that way from the git-go. Retrofitting around existing utilities is the tough part.

But don't be surprised if you find out the cost was way more than you'd think, Maureen. I'm on my condo board and have been flabbergasted by the cost of construction work. Heck, just to paint the buildings of our complex, which has less than a hundred units, is going to cost us a quarter million. No construction work or repair ... just painting.

12:02 PM  

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