A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

A short explanation of work on Gibson Hill

Written May 18th, 2023 by Hasso Hering

Traffic is flagged past where crews work on the power system on Gibson Hill Road in North Albany Thursday afternoon.

What are they doing on Gibson Hill Road, somebody asked yesterday. The short answer is they’re working on the power lines.

While they’re doing that, Gibson Hill has been restricted to one lane along that segment of the road, just up the hill from the roundabout at North Albany Road.

For a longer answer, I contacted Brandon Zero, my public information contact at Pacific Power in Portland. (PP&L used to have an active local representative for things like this, but the person I used to work with retired years ago, and if somebody took her place, I haven’t heard from that person.)

In any case, here’s what Brandon told me via email:

“Our service crews are working to maintain electrical facilities to preserve system reliability and safety. Work included an emergency power interruption yesterday from approximately 10:45 a.m. to 11 a.m., and additional facilities maintenance. Pacific Power appreciates customers’ patience as we work to install system upgrades.”

From the looks of it, this work of “system upgrades” included replacing wooden power poles with new ones. It would be interesting — well, mildly interesting anyway — to know how long the old ones had been there.

How long are power poles supposed to last? If somebody knows, I’d be grateful for a comment on that point.

As for how much longer this current work on North Albany poles or lines would go on, and how long traffic might be affected, my Pacific Power contact had no information on that. (hh)

5 responses to “A short explanation of work on Gibson Hill”

  1. Cap B. says:

    Hasso, I’m sure there is no Albany counterpart for this PP&L person you talked to. As an example of what the world has come to, I called the D-H customer service no. yesterday to cancel my paper version of their “awful” paper, and I got someone in the Philippines!! I asked where she was located is how I know.

    Anyway, speaking of road closures, you should, before it gets dark tonight (Thurs.), go to the Santiam Highway overpass and take a picture of the semi-trucks lined up on I-5 northbound for as far as the eye can see. It sure brings it home that if the county had not messed up and had gotten guarantees that containers would be available for their off-loading facility on the old paper mill site, maybe 7 people would be alive whose van got crushed by two semi-trucks today on I-5 just barely north of Albany.

  2. Mike says:

    30-40 years is average. I’m curious too about how old those poles are.

  3. khs says:

    Those new beams look cool. Don’t mind fixing power lines, and in parts of North Albany they are even underground which is the right way to do with new construction.

  4. Bob Woods says:

    From the International Association of Electrical Inspectors:

    “Average pole life expectancy is around 45 years, but that varies based on location and related climatic factors. The replacement cost of a wood pole varies between urban or rural locations, but the average cost is $5,000, including the costs associated with transferring the supply and communications facilities.”

  5. GregB says:

    Yeah, I agree with Mike, 30 – 40 years. That would be for the fir poles. I have seen the old growth cedar poles last 60+ years and still be good. The modern day treatment on fir poles (and retreatment periodically after they are installed) has the potential to make them last much longer than the 30-40 year average. Woodpecker damage, storm damage, vehicle damage and golden bupestid bugs in the poles make a huge difference how long a pole lasts. The golden bupestid lay their eggs in the fir trees after they are cut down and before the bark is striped off. The larva can roam around in the wood for many years (10-30) before they exit. When they exit, they leave a exit hole and tunnels that allows fungus causing rot to enter into the center of the pole where treatment has not penetrated. Utilities upgrade their systems periodically as needed. The poles on the line along Gibson Hill are being replaced with taller poles. The old ones will be junked. I have not been down Gibson Hill for a few days, but I suspect that the crews will be installing new conductors on the lower crossarms (distribution circuit). Heavier conductor wire requires stronger poles and more ground clearance. I have observed crews that are working up on Valley View Drive installing taller poles there also. I know they are installing new conductor wires there. If a person wants more exact details on the current project, locate the line foreman( on the ground, not in the bucket truck) and talk to him, but do not get in the way. On second thought, don’t bother the crew, go to the PP&L office and ask. My 2 cents from a old lineman.(I did not work on the PP&L system)


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