Seattle City Light continues to replace aging utility poles throughout the utility’s service area as part of the accelerated pole replacement program, which was created in 2019 to improve safety and reliability. City Light maintains approximately 91,000 wooden poles in its service territory. After an investigation following an April 2019 incident that resulted in the failure of 26 poles, City Light committed to more quickly replacing poles to address a backlog of approximately 6,000 poles deemed in need of replacement or reinforcement. Given availability of resources (materials, crews, contractors, funding), the utility aims to replace 1,000-2,000 poles annually over the next several years, depending on available resources and budget constraints due to the COVID-19 response.
Since the inception of the accelerated pole replacement program, 883 wood poles have been replaced by City Light crews and contractors. 781 of those poles were replaced in 2020.
In March, in response to the COVD-19 pandemic and Governor Inslee’s Stay Home, Stay Healthy order, the City of Seattle prioritized essential services only and most City Light employees were sent to work from home. Planned outages were also temporarily paused to avoid impacts to customers working and learning from home. Despite these limitations, City Light continued to conduct work under the pole replacement program with a limited number of internal crews and contractors. New poles were placed adjacent to poles in need of replacement, and equipment transfers were halted until planned outages could be scheduled again. Over 150 wood poles were safely installed and secured between late April and early June.
City Light announced the resumption of planned outages on June 8. As a result, contractors are returning to complete the final equipment transfers on the new poles that were installed this past spring. This work is in progress.
The utility plans to replace 1,500 utility poles in 2020. City Light has completed 50% of this total so far.
To learn more about the Accelerated Pole Replacement Program, please visit powerlines.seattle.gov/poles.