Answer Man: Was there a reason City Utilities put up such large ugly poles on Fremont north of Battlefield? Fremont is such a pretty street and it looks like part of an industrial park from the future. — Rose Foster, of Springfield
First, the poles are, in fact, large.
They’re 90 feet high and made of aluminum.
Are they ugly? Well, ugliness, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.
But drawing upon my keen aesthetic sensibilities, I would say, yes, they are ugly. I know ugly when I see it.
They are even more grotesque if you live here and see a 90-foot power pole every time you look out your front window. It’s like having a front-row seat to a launch pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station — only the rocket never launches.
In general, says City Utilities spokesman Joel Alexander, the taller the pole the higher the voltage. At the top of these are lines that carry 69,000 volts of juice.
From bottom up, they also carry communication lines, street lights and substation distribution lines of 13,200 volts.
Alexander says the average City Utilities pole is 40 feet high, with approximately 60,000 poles in the CU system.
Here’s a photo of what the poles in this location looked like prior to reconstruction. I can’t really call this a panorama of beauty, either.
Rose, who asked the question, does not live in the neighborhood. She just happens to drive by on Fremont.
I knocked on a few doors along the street to see what residents think. As far as I know, there was no organized opposition to the project.
“My husband and I wondered why they were so huge,” says Emily Nemeti, who lives on South Fremont.
The work was done about 18 months ago.
“We just figured the city is expanding and getting bigger,” she says.
Part of the $5 million project included widening Fremont Avenue to five lanes between Battlefield Road and Sunset Street. Improvements also were made at the Battlefield and Fremont intersection, with traffic signal upgrades and additional turn lanes.
I ask Alexander if it was possible for City Utilities to have put the power lines underground, rather than atop 90-foot poles.
No, he says — 69,000 volts cannot be buried.
In addition, he says, in power outages it’s far more difficult for City Utilities to figure out and fix something that’s not working or broken if it’s underground.
Similar poles were erected along South Jefferson Avenue, as well, he says.
Why such a grand sidewalk?
Nemeti says she and other homeowners on the west side lost several feet of front yard and driveway with the street widening.
Some residents understood the need for the extra lane, but they are baffled as to why their sidewalk was expanded into the luxurious width of approximately 12 feet.
I spoke to Mike Colon, who happened to answer the door of his son’s house when I knocked. His son Joshua, who wasn’t home, has lived here seven to eight years.
The Colon house is across Fremont Avenue from Meador Park.
“It just seems kind of strange that they would put all that money into this side of the street and not the other side,” where the park is, Mike Colon tells me.
The other side also has a new sidewalk, but it is roughly half the width of the Grand Sidewalk de Rue de Fremont, on the west side.
A 2019 press release refers to the extra-wide sidewalk as a “multi-use path.”
The multi-use path was put on the west side because the city has had the right-of-way to frontage along Fremont since the subdivision on the west side was first planned, says Jonathan Peitz, an engineer with the city.
I think of the Galloway Trail as a “multi-use path.” It takes walkers, runners and bicyclists through various greenways.
I think most homeowners here would have preferred keeping an extra 6 feet of front yard.
Be patient, says Peitz, the path might not connect to anything now, but it might in the future.
He says the trailhead to South Creek Trail, at Sunset and National, is only a few blocks away.
“It will be built in pieces,” Peitz says. “We cannot connect every single trail overnight. But we would like to connect all these different areas going down to Republic Road. This is a small piece of over-arching connectivity.”
Keep those questions coming. Send them to The Answer Man at 417-836-1253, firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter @stevepokinNL or by mail to 651 Boonville Ave., Springfield, MO 65806.