By Richard Gaines
---- — National Grid came to Gloucester on Thursday to describe an $11 million electrical infrastructure improvement project across Cape Ann, Beverly, Hamilton and Wenham.
The project involves upgrading and adding as much as 15 miles of underground cable systems that will increase capacity to the utility’s distribution system and redundancies to reduce the chance of power outages.
Work began on the project in September and is about 20 percent complete. Work is projected to be complete by June 2013.
New cable is being introduced in the existing manhole and duct system that runs from Beverly through Manchester and Gloucester.
Crews will be installing new cabling along Route 127 in Manchester and on Magnolia, Essex and Western avenues and Main Street in Gloucester.
The utility also said it would be upgrading existing equipment in its Beverly, Manchester and Gloucester substations that will “enhance the reliability of the system and improve restoration time during outages.
“It all starts in the East Beverly substation,” said National Grid spokeswoman Charlotte McCormack. “Then, the route follows 127 onto Salem Street into Manchester. Once there, it breaks off to Magnolia Avenue to Route 133/Essex Avenue to where it intersects with Main Street in Gloucester and runs to the substation next to Gorton’s.
The new line will become the primary delivery line and will be located at a greater distance from the commuter rail tracks.
The old line is within three feet of the tracks in many places. So, to do maintenance and other work on them in the past, National Grid would have to either have the MBTA trains stopped or work around their schedule, said Dan Cameron, manager of community and customer management for National Grid.
Once the new cables are installed, the majority will be far enough from the tracks that maintenance will not involve the MBTA.
National Grid hired ElecComm Corp. of Winchester to lay the new cable.
Each day, according to ElecComm officials, two to three reels of cable are installed — about 1,000 to 1,500 feet per day. The copper cables weigh 15 pounds per foot, each reel is between 10,000 and 15,000 pounds.
While the workers are in the manholes working, they also meter for various gases inside and on themselves, for safety.
ElecComm estimates that the bulk of the work placing cables underground will be completed in the area by the end of January. There is little to no digging needed to install the cables, as they’re using existing manholes on the roads.
“A top priority of National Grid is to provide save and reliable service to customers and businesses in the communities we serve,” said Marcy Reed, president of National Grid, Massachusetts. “Continuous investment in our infrastructure is vital to help reduce the occurrence of power outages and assure that we have capacity in the sysstem to allow for economic growth.”
Chief Photographer Allegra Boverman contributed to this story by Richard Gaines. He can be reached at email@example.com.