A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Lift your eyes to the tangled web overhead

Written October 12th, 2021 by Hasso Hering

To the casual observer, this doesn’t look like the most streamlined wiring setup imaginable.

We rarely lift our eyes to notice what’s overhead. Try it sometimes, and you might be amazed that the bewildering arrangements of electrical and communications lines actually still seem to do the job.

A couple of weeks ago I was in the downtown Albany alley that runs from Ellsworth to Broadalbin Street, between the backs of buildings that front on First and Second avenues. That’s where I pointed my phone skyward and took the photos you see here.

The tangled wiring is not causing any problems, as far as I know. If it was, the customers served by these wires would notice and complain. But they don’t, so we have to assume that no matter how confusing it looks to the inexperienced eye, the wires deliver the power and the internet and phone connections that businesses and residents want.

As it happens, removing the clutter of overhead utility wires used to be a thing, a cause, among people interested in city planning.

The subject is mentioned several times in the urban renewal plan that the Albany City Council adopted in 2001. That’s the plan that created the Central Albany Revitalization Area, with its list of 51 potential projects and activities to be undertaken over the ensuing years.

No. 30 on that list was “Overhead Utilities.” And it said, “Where feasible, place all currently overhead utilities underground. In all areas, reduce clutter of overhead lines by coordinating drops, etc.”

Like with most of the items on that list of projects, nothing happened with this one. And now that CARA is trying to wrap up the renewal program with three big projects (the riverfront renewal and the St. Francis and Wells Fargo restorations), there’s no chance anybody is going to worry about these rats’ nests of overhead wires.

Which is just as well. Nobody notices these things unless they look up. (hh)

Here’s another view of the overhead wiring setup in the same downtown alley.

5 responses to “Lift your eyes to the tangled web overhead”

  1. HowlingCicada says:

    On Google Street View you can see a bigger mess all over the third world. Undergrounding seems to be a bit of a toss-up. In my apartment complex (hilly northwest Corvallis), everything-underground seems to work well. In a more-upscale area nearby, there have been big problems and long outages with “screwed-up” underground power.

    • HowlingCicada says:

      Important points I missed. My place: 21 years without significant trouble. The other area (single-family houses): it took many hours to locate the problem. I don’t know how old the installation was, and wonder if underground power has improved recently to at least avoid digging all over the place to find a bad spot.

  2. Patricia A Cooley says:

    Looks like India.

  3. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    It looks like a third-world country. Some would even call it blight.

    It all comes down to priorities. And those who rule Albany would rather see renovated old things instead of new invisible things, regardless of cost and need.

    It’s a power thing, no pun intended.

  4. Bill Kapaun says:

    Maybe it’s a business suite that has upgraded to 2400 baud modems?


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