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Northern Pass wants to bury some lines in the middle of roads

New Hampshire Union Leader

June 01. 2017 12:21AM

CONCORD — Northern Pass proposes burying some underground lines in the middle of roads contrary to a state utility accommodation manual, a committee member considering the project said Wednesday.

“You did the exact opposite of what the UAM had asked for,” said Site Evaluation Committee member William Oldenburg, who also is assistant director of project development at the state Department of Transportation.

“I guess I would have thought that you would have designed it first outside of the pavement instead of ‘I can’t do this. This doesn’t work for us, can we now move it into the pavement because of these reasons,’ ” Oldenburg said.

Samuel Johnson, the lead project manager for Northern Pass, said project officials are trying to adjust the underground route slightly to move underground wires off pavement when possible. Northern pass also has asked for waivers from the state DOT to allow for some lines to be put under paved roads.

“We’re looking from a design perspective to move everything off the road,” Johnson said. “There are certain restrictions that we’re asking forgiveness for if you will to put us underneath the road where there are encumbrances on either side of the road that would prevent us from being outside.”

The proposed $1.6 billion project to bring hydropower from Canada into New England needs several state and federal approvals before it can start operating in late 2019 or early 2020.

Project officials hope to garner all necessary approvals by the end of this year. The 192-mile route runs through more than 30 communities and includes 60 miles of buried lines.

In regard to safety, Easton resident Campbell McLaren, an emergency physician, questioned Northern Pass witnesses about emergency vehicles hitting construction delays, jeopardizing patients.

“There’s a pretty strong possibility of human collateral damage,” McLaren said.

Kenneth Bowes, Eversource vice president of engineering, said Franconia leaders broke off conversations 18 months ago.

He said Northern Pass officials would be willing to talk to town leaders and emergency officials.

Lynn Farrington, a licensed professional traffic operations engineer, said there would be a system set up to ensure roads were clear for emergency vehicles.

On tourism, Northern Pass officials said they would be willing to consider covering legitimate business losses if tourism falls off during the projected two construction seasons.

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