April 30, 2012 05:00

Let's just say this is one eyesore that's not going away any time soon.

For all of us who have waited far too long to see our fair city's biggest eyesore cleaned up, the news is disappointing. A study commissioned by Lafayette Utilities System finds that burying all of the power lines on Johnston Street would cost $26.7 million per mile. According to a story on the study published this weekend by The Advocate, it would cost $3,045 per foot of road, or $16 million a mile, just to bury the electric distribution lines and leave the larger transmission lines on poles.

That one mile is the stretch of Johnston Street between College Drive and Roselawn Boulevard. The study's estimated costs are three to five times what some had hoped for.

Oh, the high cost of dumb growth.

"It was like a sinking feeling," City-Parish President Joey Durel told The Advocate Friday when describing his reaction to the cost analysis. Durel has maintained an interest in redeveloping Johnston Street since taking office in 2004, and burying the power lines was being considered along with a range of other improvements to transform the road into a more aesthetically pleasing and pedestrian-friendly corridor.

But he said the prospect of underground utilities now seems "impossible," considering the cost and complications such as the need of some businesses to relocate because of the additional right-of-way needed to bury the power lines.
"When you start having to retrofit things, it gets pretty expensive," LUS Director Terry Huval told the paper.

An animated feature on the home page of commercial real estate developer Reed Andrus' www.improvejohnston.org starts with the existing view of Johnston Street and South College looking south (Image 1). In image 2, Andrus' graphics team removes overhead power lines. In image 3, the team substitutes monument signage for existing business signs, and landscaping is added in the final image. The new estimated price tag for burying the power lines makes it unlikely Andrus' vision and the community's hope of cleaning up this eyesore will happen any time soon.


Let's keep Huval's comment in mind the next time we have an opportunity to do it right the first time. At the very least we should be burying empty electrical conduit while we're laying water and sewer lines during road construction. That means no ongoing maintenance of lines, no contracts with tree trimmers, fewer outages in storms.

And that says nothing of the aesthetics.

Somebody please tell me why that won't work on every new street project.

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Read the flipping paper