On Oct. 9, 2019, Seattle City Light released the first part of the final report on the East Marginal Way pole collapse conducted by third-party consultants, which summarized the causation findings (i.e., the investigation report). As promised at that time, we are now releasing the second part, the experts’ recommendations for improvements to reduce risk for future recurrence.
The consultants identified improvements we can make in our wooden pole testing and strength rating system, conditioning and treatments, coordination with partners, and more. Generally, we agree with the recommendations. In our commitment to the safety of our community and our workers, we have already begun implementing some changes while we lay the groundwork for and/or evaluate others. We anticipate most efforts will be implemented within six months, with several occurring sooner.
In line with the recommendations, we will:
- Collect better data on the strength of the poles in service and exchange results with co-owners of poles that also are used for communications lines under joint ownership agreements. We are already working with CenturyLink to share data and coordinate testing.
- Improve our pole rating system. We are convening a task force that will update our pole asset management program, including redefining the remaining strength range categories, establishing specific timeframes for replacement and refining prioritization criteria.
- Reimplement a restoration program involving trussing and steel stays, where appropriate and safe, to extend the life of poles at the higher end of remaining strength. This is cheaper and faster than replacement.
- Update specifications on new poles to ensure proper conditioning and treatment prior to purchase. The task force will modify these standards as part of its work.
- Pilot alternative pole treatments and pole caps to reduce decay and enhance pole protection while also meeting our community’s environmental stewardship values. We have already contacted a vendor and requested some poles treated with an alternative suggested by the experts and are committed to evaluating the use of pole caps.
“The pole collapse along East Marginal Way has been a critical wake-up call. Seattle City Light will be more aggressive in replacing weakened poles,” said Debra Smith, City Light General Manager and CEO. “I appreciate the experts’ invaluable work to investigate the incident and to assess our program. We are taking their recommendations seriously and working diligently to implement improvements.”
“As I said in October, this is an essential capital improvement program and I am prioritizing public safety above all else. We will redirect funds and resources from other CIP projects, which will likely be deferred. However, our direct customer services will not be impacted, and we will not raise rates to cover the costs of these efforts.”
Since October, we have assigned a dedicated project manager to oversee pole replacements; hired three contractors to supplement replacements done by our crews; and worked with the Seattle Department of Transportation to expedite the permitting process so we can get this work done faster. Including work on order, crews and contractors will have replaced about 190 poles between Oct. 10 and year end. This rate of replacement will continue as we move into 2020 and finalize our longer-term plan. While still being developed, we are looking to replace 1,400-2,000 poles annually over the next five years, depending on the availability of funding and resources.