Xcel Energy is proposing to route a high-voltage power line along the border of the Midtown Greenway, crossing the recreational corridor four times, and is seeking public reaction to the plan today.
The proposal to beef up Xcel's transmission capacity in the Lake Street corridor has kicked up concerns among those who question the need for the line and worry about possible health effects and the visual impact.
But the utility said it needs to offer more reliable service in the area, which has redeveloped with denser housing and with once-vacant businesses now occupied.
Xcel is proposing an aerial line, which is cheaper but runs counter to the sentiment of area council members that the line should be buried. They prefer a route under E. 28th Street if the line goes ahead.
Betty Mirzayi, Xcel's transmission project manager, said Xcel chose the route largely following the Greenway's south rim because it's a more direct route that would be cheaper to build. Xcel also looked at overhead routes along E. 26th, 28th and 31st streets for the east-west extension from its existing Hiawatha Avenue transmission line into the redeveloping Midtown area. But those routes would run closer to more houses, partially block sidewalks with poles and require removal or pruning of more trees, she said.
Mirzayi said Xcel also evaluated an underground alternative for the Greenway route. She said that the $15 million project includes $2 million for installing overhead lines. Burying the line along the Greenway corridor would cost $15.8 million more, a cost Xcel said would be borne by ratepayers.
But Council Member Robert Lilligren said he is concerned that an overhead Greenway line would discourage redevelopment, the reason that the city and county invested in the Greenway.
Xcel proposes to locate a new substation on the east side of Hiawatha at 28th Street, adjoining its current transmission line. A prime attraction of that site, now owned by the state and a railroad, is that it is away from homes and offers room for expansion, Mirzayi said. Xcel proposes to expand an old unused substation on Oakland Avenue S., purchasing an adjacent condemned triplex and a vacant lot.
The Midtown Greenway Coalition, an advocacy group with membership from neighborhoods bordering the bike-pedestrian corridor, has opposed the project for now. It said it would reassess that position if alternatives for improving the area's power supply prove inadequate and there is adequate buffering of the line. Tim Springer, the coalition's director, said the proposed routing makes finding alternatives such as conservation or load management even more important.
Mirzayi said the Greenway rim route leaves adequate room in the former rail trench owned by Hennepin County for the potential development of trolley or light-rail transit.
The company has delayed its project timetable somewhat, pushing back its application to the state for the project from this month to later this winter. It now hopes to begin using the line and two accompanying substations in the first half of 2011.
Steve Brandt • 612-673-4438