Undergrounding – Questions Asked. Questions Answered.

The Town of Palm Beach continues to meet with residents and community groups to talk about the Undergrounding of Utilities Project. Town Manager Tom Bradford made a presentation to the Garden Club of Palm Beach and the Greater South County Road Association during their annual “Talk with the Town” forum. Great conversation, good questions and lots of feedback. You can read more about the presentations and the questions asked online at www.Undergrounding.info.

Below is a summary of the questions and answers from the presentations.

Question: How long will it take to underground utilities on each street?

Answer: The most intensive work for undergrounding, the installation of the underground conduits, will take 6 to 9 months with the majority of the work occurring out of season. After that, the equipment and cabling can be installed.  Once the equipment and cables are installed and energized, properties will begin to be converted over to the new underground power and communication utilities. Comcast and AT&T will remove their lines from the existing poles and then FPL will begin removing their lines and poles. Once the poles are removed, the Town would abandon the rear easements, unless there are other utilities in the rear easement, such as sewer or gas lines.  The entire process can take 18 to 24 months to complete.

Question: What is the status of Comcast and AT&T offering improved service?

Answer: The Town put out an RFI (Request for Information) to telecommunication companies who are interested in providing service to the Town. The Town is reviewing those proposals to see what companies would like to provide service, what services and improved technologies could be offered, what the costs would be, and if there were any revenue generating or cost sharing opportunities that could be offered to the Town.  AT&T is planning to upgrade their backbone lines to fiber optic at no additional cost to the Town in a phased manner over the next several years.  Second, the Town is evaluating the possibility of adding extra conduit underground that could be used to better integrate Town communications and prepare Palm Beach to become a “smart city” in the future.

Question: Are different public works projects being coordinated with undergrounding?

Answer: Yes. Public works projects, such as street lighting, water, sewer, and drainage work that are planned to occur in Town are being coordinated with the undergrounding project to ensure efficiency. Where possible, projects would be completed at the same time to limit impacts. The Town has also developed a transportation management plan to set guidelines and procedures for coordinating traffic impacts for all Town projects.

Question: Will street lights be replaced once utilities go underground?

Answer: Yes. Where street lights already exist on the major arterial streets, they will be replaced.  Street lights that are attached to power poles on non-arterial streets will not be replaced.  Also, for streets where street lights are not present, each street will have an opportunity to install street lights at an additional cost under a neighborhood program previously established by the Town.

Question: Will the Town resurface private streets that are not owned by the Town?  

Answer: Yes. The Town will ask the private streets owners if they want their streets resurfaced after undergrounding.

Question: Has the Town considered not undergrounding the south end and only undergrounding the properties north of Sloan’s Curve?

Answer: The discussions have occurred. However, removing the south end would greatly impact the reliability of the undergrounding system. ** The Town receives the maximum amount of reliability when all the utilities in Town are undergrounded. Furthermore, there are residents in the south end who voted for undergrounding and it would not be fair to eliminate them from the project.

** Properties in the south end, those south of Sloan’s Curve, make up 43% of the properties to be assessed.  These same properties will pay 27% of the project cost.