A decade ago, supporters of burying the India Point power lines in Providence would have balked at waiting until the end of 2014 for a detailed cost estimate of the multimillion dollar project.
Now they consider it progress.
One of the slowest large infrastructure projects in Rhode Island inched forward again in December when state regulators ordered utility National Grid to produce a “construction-grade” estimate of moving the high-voltage wires strung from the Knowledge District to East Providence underground.
The engineering work needed to produce the cost estimate is itself pricey, expected to cost $1 million, and will take at least nine months.
But it’s the first tangible progress for the power-line burial plan since it became mired in a mix of bureaucratic and corporate gridlock several years ago.
“This is something we have been [seeking] for four years,” said David Riley, co-chairman of citizens group Friends of India Point Park and public face of the effort to bury the power lines. “It doesn’t mean it will happen, but it is a positive development.”
The regional transmission lines run from the Manchester Street power station over the Providence River, India Point Park and Seekonk River in East Providence on their way to the Brayton Point power plant in Somerset.
Rising estimates of the cost of putting the 1.2-mile segment between Providence and East Providence in tunnels has been the chief hurdle to making the project happen.
At least $17.2 million has been set aside for the project from a mix of government and private sources, but each time supporters have found new funding, the cost has been revised upwards, creating a gap no one is eager to pay for.
National Grid most recently pegged the cost of the project at $19 million in 2007, upping the initial estimate of $14.5 million.
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