CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARBULLETIN.COM
State Sen. Colleen Hanabusa stood by an aerial photograph yesterday as she attended a press conference held at HECO. HECO and state representatives announced plans to install electric cable underground in response to the fallen power lines along Farrington Highway on the Waianae Coast last year.
Waianae utility lines will go underground
Strong winds that toppled utility poles in Nanakuli in the past two years have resulted in an agreement between the state and Hawaiian Electric Co. to move the lines underground.
The state and HECO plan to hold a series of community meetings to get input from residents to determine project costs, funding, location and other issues before an application for the project is submitted to the Public Utilities Commission by the end of the year.
At a news conference at the Hawaiian Electric building on Richards Street yesterday, HECO Senior Vice President Robbie Alm said he anticipates the project, costing "tens of millions" of dollars, will bury 13 to 17 miles of utility lines in sections of Farrington Highway on the Leeward Coast. It is estimated that the project will take place in a couple of years.
Officials are using the 1988-93 Kalanianaole Highway underground utility lines project as a model. That 3-mile line burial was part of the state highways widening project.
Funding for that project was split between state transportation funds and a HECO rate hike, said Senate President Colleen Hanabusa, who represents Nanakuli and Makua, at the news conference yesterday.
Alm said, "This won't be a simple project. It's an important one, and we want to sort of run through what all of the challenges we'll face with the community and get their sense before we design the project."
Meanwhile, HECO plans to reinforce 30 wooden poles on Farrington Highway in Nanakuli and Maili with fitted trusses. The poles were recently replaced following a storm Dec. 5, when 36 poles toppled due to strong gusts.
Hundreds of residents were without power for a couple of days. It also caused gridlock on Farrington Highway, the sole thoroughfare for Waianae-bound motorists, while crew members worked on repairs.
By Oct. 1, HECO plans to replace 12 wooden poles with steel poles. The poles, located near Haleakala Avenue, were affected both in the December storm and in March 2006, when another bout of strong gusts hit.
State and HECO officials said they plan to discuss traffic, water infiltration, tunnel boring and other issues with the community.
Patty Teruya, a longtime Nanakuli resident and chairwoman of the Waianae Coast Neighborhood Board, said she wants to find out whether the project will affect residential property along Farrington Highway. Teruya is also concerned how the project will affect traffic for Waianae Coast residents, reiterating the need for an alternate route, an issue that has been long requested by area residents.
It is a public safety issue, Teruya said.