The giant, rust-colored steel pole sections — laid purposefully every half mile or so but situated so that they resemble a giant game of “Pick-Up Sticks” — the well-cleared corridors that follow rolling hills along Interstate 90/94 and the track beds of rough-hewn timber that also follow those hills – these are the building blocks of the electricity superhighway being built through the Dells-Delton area.
Construction of that high-voltage electricity corridor — through which a 345,000-volt electric transmission line will run on completion in 2018 -– has remained on schedule this fall, according to a representative of American Transmission Co., one of the two Midwestern electric utilities building the line that will stretch from near La Crosse to Middleton when it is completed.
The construction work — which has consisted of clearing the corridor of virtually all vegetation, grading the corridor before laying down the protective “mats” of timber, then digging and pouring the massive concrete foundations for the giant steel power poles –- has been impossible to miss the past few months for anyone driving through the Dells-Delton area on I-90/94
Much of the Badger Coulee Transmission Line corridor’s third segment runs through the area, and this ongoing “foundation work” will continue along the corridor this coming week and into December, according to ATC spokesman Kaya Freiman.
“The plan is to continue installing foundation in Segment 3 after the Thanksgiving Holiday,” Freiman said Tuesday afternoon, following a brief tour of the corridor where it runs along the west side of I-90/94 before taking a sharp turn toward Baraboo along U.S. Highway 12 at Exit 92 in Lake Delton.
The construction site was relatively quiet this week due to the state deer hunting schedule, Freiman said, but a close-up view of the site Tuesday indicated that much progress had been made in preparing the area for the 95- to 165-foot power poles that will carry the high-voltage circuit as it brings bulk electricity from states in the West through the region toward Chicago and beyond.
The rust-colored, steel pole sections — placed near where each ultimately will be raised and secured in order to hold up lengths of power line –- dwarf any nearby human in size, with at least a couple of the hollow poles easily wide enough for the average-sized person to creep into one as they upon the hillsides overlooking I-90/94.
The poles’ “weathering steel” construction means they will continue to have a rusty-colored hue, perhaps so they can better blend with the natural surroundings that they will occupy for decades to come as they help move electricity through the region.
Near each of the pole placements are the 8- to 12-foot circular foundation structures, each foundation already rung with dozens of upward-facing, heavy-duty bolts that will be used to secure the steel power poles in place.
The poles will be erected in the spring, Freiman said, and the heavy construction equipment already visible along the corridor will be joined by the occasional helicopter as the poles are raised and high-voltage wires are strung atop them.
“Depending on the area, helicopters may be used” to “help facilitate” the stringing of the wires, Freiman said.
The highway-side scene will not change dramatically for the next few months, as fall turns to winter, she said.
“People will see crews working, using the heavy equipment, to get the foundations installed, and after that the work will continue in the spring time with the next step of installing the poles,” Freiman said. “After that, the wire installation will be done, and the equipment used will vary –- we might use helicopters, ground crews or a combination.”