By Rich Pollack
If you’ve traveled along State Road A1A in the last several months you’ve probably seen a crew or two working on the power lines.
FPL understands that the work might slightly inconvenience residents, but the company says in the long run customers will benefit by having more reliable service and quicker restoration of power after outages.
“We’re installing poles and equipment that will help us restore power faster and improve everyday reliability,” said FPL spokesman Bill Orlove.
Most of the work along A1A is part of FPL’s systemwide hardening project, which includes replacing some poles as well as main feeder lines — those that come directly from the company’s substation.
While the project continues throughout the area, there’s good news for those traveling A1A or who live on the barrier island throughout most of southern Palm Beach County.
In Highland Beach, all that needs to be done is for one phone and cable provider to move its wires to new poles. In Ocean Ridge and Briny Breezes, work that FPL began last May is expected to be completed by early spring.
Work along A1A in Boca Raton and much of Delray Beach should be done by the end of this year.
Projects in Manalapan and some portions of South Palm Beach were completed six or seven years ago, according to Orlove.
Another project in South Palm Beach and one in Delray will be done down the road, FPL says.
In addition to the hardening projects, work is underway in the town of Gulf Stream, which is converting from overhead lines to underground utility services.
Like the hardening project, the conversion is designed to improve reliability of utility services.
All new poles and equipment installed as part of the hardening project, as well as main lines, are now capable of withstanding wind gusts of up to 145 miles per hour, Orlove said.
In some cases, the poles will be slightly taller than existing ones in order to accommodate equipment such as transformers, and to ensure they, too, can withstand high winds.
Orlove said FPL’s hardening efforts throughout the company’s service area have been going on for several years, with 40 percent of the distribution system already either hardened or underground.
That paid off last year during Hurricane Irma, a massive storm that affected all of FPL’s service area, with an estimated 2,500 poles needing to be replaced.
During Hurricane Wilma 12 years earlier, FPL replaced 12,400 poles.
Because of the nature of the work, with poles and wires needing replacement, some traffic-flow disruptions will occur, especially along heavily traveled roads such as A1A.
“We know it’s an inconvenience and we ask people for their patience as we work to make the energy grid stronger and more resilient,” Orlove said. “In the long run this will benefit residents in this area.”