The Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority began putting Christiansted’s utilities underground Tuesday.
Construction crews from General Engineering Corporation will be excavating and then installing conduits and manholes east from WAPA’s Estate Richmond substation to West Street, then to Strand Street and then on to the Prince Street intersection. The first phase should be completed by March 2010, according to WAPA.
Work is scheduled between 7:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. daily, so as construction continues drivers should mind road signs, flaggers, and detours to avoid traffic delays and keep work crews safe.
The project’s aim is to lessen power outages and shorten the time it takes to bring power back after a hurricane or major windstorm.
The federally funded improvements are to be completed in three phases:
Phase I, on Strand and Prince Streets, will cost $3.74 million and be completed next year; Phase II will include underground line installation on Strand, King, and Company Streets at a cost of $3.67 million and is expected to be completed in 2011;
WAPA will apply to FEMA for additional funds to complete Phase III which will include Queen, Hill, East and Fisher Streets in Christiansted town. The underground conduits will be able to carry both electrical and communications cable.
St. Croix already has an underground grid from the Richmond plant to the Gov. Juan F. Luis Hospital and the Henry A. Rohlsen Airport. A section of St. Croix’s Feeder no. 8, serving the island’s west end, is also underground. On St. Thomas, power is underground from the Randolph Harley Power Plant to the Cyril E. King Airport and the Roy L. Schneider Hospital, according to WAPA.
The project’s grants require a 75/25 percent cost share between the Federal Emergency Management Agency and WAPA. WAPA’s share will come from customer payments into the Self-Insurance and Hazard Mitigation Fund.
The customer surcharge that contributes to this fund was established with the approval of the Public Services Commission to help restore the system should there be a delay or absence of federal funds after a hurricane or other disaster. The surcharge was eliminated in February 2006 when the fund reached its approved limit of $8 million.