By Ernie Over, managing editor, county10.com
(Riverton, Wyo.) – Drivers on Highway 26 west of Riverton may have noticed a new feature on the landscape recently, that of a dozen red marker balls on Rocky Mountain Power’s high voltage electric lines that cross over the highway. Seven of the power poles there also topped with new dual red lights.
“It’s something that I’ve been working on for three years now,” said Riverton Public Works Director Bill Urbigkit. “It’s part of our Capital Improvement Plan to lower the west end of the runway (at Riverton Regional Airport) in 2015.”
Two years ago, that portion of Paradise Valley Road at the west end of the airport property was lowered, also in planning for the major runway reconstruction project.
“We looked at many options for dealing with the power lines and poles, since they’ll now be in the airspace restriction once the runway is lowered. We looked at relocating the power line, which would’ve been hugely expensive, or lowering the power lines, which was not a good option either,” Urbigkit said. “In consultation with the Federal Aviation Administration and Rocky Mountain Power, it was decided to put lights on the poles and marker balls on the power lines as the best option.”
That brought up another set of complications. The area where the transmission line passes through is in the service area of High Plains Power, and a new power line would’ve been required to provide current for the lights.”Rocky Mountain Power officials finally suggested the lights be powered with solar panels, and they were,” he said.
Rocky Mountain Power spokesperson Margaret Oler said the power company was happy to work with the city to make the safety improvements. “The work was finished in mid-December,” she said. “The solar lights are not the flashing kind, they burn steady.” Oler said the transmission line carries 230,000 volts of electricity and is a segment of a statewide system that provides electricity around Wyoming. “This particular segment runs from the Riverton substation to the Thermopolis substation,” she said.
Urbigkit said the project was originally budgeted around $500,000, but that it was accomplished for about $100,000. Under the airport Capital Improvement Plan, the FAA pays 95 percent of the cost, the state kicks in three percent and city’s responsibility is two percent, Urbigkit said. The city paid Rocky Mountain Power for the materials and labor to install the safety improvements.
Urbigkit said two lights were installed on each power pole, for redundancy for safety’s sake.