After three years of preparations, SCE&G is beginning to replace electricity transmission lines that stretch from Lady's Island to downtown Beaufort.
The $5 million project places higher-voltage lines along a route winding about three miles from North Street and Fraser Drive on the west end of downtown Beaufort, under the Beaufort River and down Colony Gardens Road on Lady's Island.
The new transmission lines will bring more electricity and more reliable service to Port Royal and Lady's Island, according to an SCE&G news release.
When the project was announced in 2007, community members balked at the idea of new, taller poles going up throughout Beaufort's historic downtown. But the high cost of putting lines underground ended residents' attempt to hide the wires.
"Putting the lines underground costs about $1.5 million more per mile," said SCE&G spokeswoman Patricia Freshwater. "And repair time on underground lines can last weeks or months instead of hours or days. You want to have those lines above ground, where problems can be spotted visually and fixed quickly."
SCE&G workers are laying foundations for the new poles, most of which are 80 to 98.5 feet tall and should start going up next month.
Once the new lines are up, sometime between September and the end of the year, the company will start moving smaller distribution lines underground, which should take about two years, Freshwater said.
Those lines take electricity from high-capacity transmission lines into neighborhoods.
Once the lines go underground, the old utility poles will be removed, leaving 40 new ones along the route, half the number there now.