Tumlin suggested removing the telephone poles and hanging power lines along the same two-mile portion of the road that will get sidewalks and pedestrian lights as part of the streetscape funded by the $68 redevelopment bond issuance voters approved in November.
Tumlin asked the Board of Lights and Water to spend more than $4 million out of its reserves to bury the utility lines to make the road “more aesthetically pleasing.”
Tumlin, who chairs the BLW, received a less than enthusiastic response from board members when presenting the idea on Monday.
“We looked at it pretty quick, and that was too much (money) to take out of (the BLW’s) reserves,” Tumlin said.
Burying the lines would require bulldozing 10 to 15 oak trees along Whitlock Avenue, all at least 100 years old, Tumlin said. The project to bury the lines would double the cost of the total work planned for Whitlock Avenue, and it would extend the construction of the streetscape by one year.
BLW board member Michael Wilson said the board’s reaction was “lukewarm.” He voiced his objection to burying the utility lines, saying the cost would be passed on to customers.
“I personally don’t believe that it should happen,” Wilson said. “I was very proud of our board and the efforts we’ve made to keep rates down. I think right now this is premature.”
Alice Summerour, a BLW board member, said she thought the board was wary of the cost.
“The reaction was that that was a big price tag to accomplish that project,” Summerour said.
Burying the lines is not necessary to complete the project, Tumlin said.
Tumlin said he would still like to bury the lines, but he has since realized it would be a large amount of work with little practical benefit.
“I do not regret us looking at it, but it did not seem like the prudent thing to do,” Tumlin said.
Councilman Anthony Coleman said he didn’t think it would be wise to leave the BLW short on its reserve funds, which is where the mayor requested the money come from.
“If something drastic happens, there should be money in the reserves,” Coleman said.
Whitlock Avenue plans released
The approved Whitlock Avenue streetscape project’s initial plans were shown to the council at its June 25 committee meeting.
The plans, which were designed by Arcadis, show concrete sidewalks with brick accent blocks regularly placed along the road. Each intersection along Whitlock Avenue will feature brick signs with placards labeling the crossing roads. The plans also included adding pedestrian crossings along Whitlock Avenue.
At the City Council’s request, the BLW will look at funding another portion of the project at its next meeting — pedestrian crossing lights.
The board requested the city bring it a proposal of what it would cost to install regular pedestrian crossings beginning at Kirkpatrick Drive eastbound to the Square.
The BLW will discuss the proposal at its Aug. 11 meeting but does not plan to make a decision about funding the portion of the project, Tumlin said.
Construction will begin on the streetscapes project Jan. 30, 2015, according to Arcadis. A completion date has not been announced because a contractor has not been selected yet.