As part of a private partnership, the above ground utility lines along parts of Third Beach Road and Indian Avenue are being removed
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ABOVE GROUND UTILITY LINES, POLES COMING DOWN
MIDDLETOWN, R.I. (APRIL 9, 2021) – Above ground utility lines on parts of Third Beach Road and Indian Avenue are on the way out.
Part of a privately funded effort to bury utilities in the area, National Grid and other providers have been working in recent weeks to clear the way for the project.
While the town is not a partner in the project, Town Administrator Shawn J. Brown said the community was definitely seeing the benefits. Those include improving the scenic beauty of the corridor to making the waterfront location more resistant to storms and bad weather.
“It’s one of those things where the utility lines are always there until they’re not,” Brown said. “The work has been going on quietly for a while now and one day, all those poles and powerlines are going to be gone and I don’t think anyone is going to miss them.”
According to a May 2020 letter to the town from Newport attorney Turner C. Scott, the effort was motivated by another project to bury utility lines nearby.
Scott wrote that property owners in the area were so inspired by a 2017 effort by the Scenic Aquidneck Coalition to underground utility lines and remove the utility poles along Sachuest Point Road, they decided to pursue a similar private effort of their own. The Scenic Aquidneck Coalition is a partnership between the town, Preserve Rhode Island, the Aquidneck Land Trust and the Preservation Society of Newport County.
With assistance from the Scenic Aquidneck Coalition and Norman Bird Sanctuary, Scott said the utility lines along 1.2 miles of Third Beach Road from the Third Beach parking area to Taggart’s Ferry on Indian Avenue will be removed. No town money or tax dollars are being used for the Third Beach Road and Indian Avenue undertaking.
The town has been looking at doing an undergrounding project of its own in the lower Aquidneck Avenue area, known locally at the Atlantic Beach district. That proposal is part of a wider project to upgrade the beachfront neighborhood and commercial district, work that also includes new sidewalks, parking, lighting and other amenities.
Like most projects, the holdup in getting the work done is funding. Recently, the town received an estimate of $17 million to $20 million from National Grid to perform the undergrounding, up from an initial estimate of $5 million. That announcement has left the town at a crossroads about whether to pursue the effort or retool and move on without that component.
On Friday morning, there was little sign of work along Third Beach and Indian Avenue, minus a Verizon bucket truck that was in the area, checking out the remaining lines.
Brown said the town has been receiving regular briefings about the work and its progress. At this point, Brown said he wasn’t sure when the utility poles would be taken out. But once that work started, it would go quickly.
“Everywhere you look, there’s work happening in town,” Brown said. “To see the continued investment in Middletown, whether it’s our important business community or projects like this, that improve the look and feel of our town, it just continues to show what a wonderful place this is to live, work and play.”