While on one hand it’s a beautification project, Otter Tail’s Crookston operations manager says project’s main benefit will be making local system more reliable

    A project underway on University Avenue on Crookston’s north end will, when it’s finished, result in the removal of the electrical poles lining the east side of the road, because all of the electrical infrastructure will be buried underground.

    Otter Tail Power Company is leading the project, with help from its subcontractor, Cooperative Development, which is installing the underground electrical lines.

    Although the project will make the stretch of University Avenue more aesthetically pleasing to passers-by, Doug Steinmetz, Otter Tail’s operations manager in Crookston, said the primary goal of the project is to make Otter Tail’s electrical system in Crookston “more robust.”

    “Yes, it’s absolutely a beautification project, but that’s not the priority,” Steinmetz explained. “Our system will be improved because we’ll be able to tie to a second substation, which will make the Crookston system more reliable. If we lose one substation, we’ll be able to tie two together.”

    Burying power lines and removing power poles is not something Otter Tail is doing in several communities that it serves, he added. “We just saw an opportunity in Crookston to improve the system, so we’re doing it,” Steinmetz said.

    Passers-by on University Avenue can observe crews from Otter Tail and Cooperative Development alternating work along the sidewalk on the east side of the road and on the west side, where new above-ground infrastructure boxes are being installed.

    Steinmetz doesn’t anticipate the overhead lines’ removal until 2019.

    “We can’t remove anything until everyone has power, and we have to keep everyone in power,” he said. “So it all has to be done in steps.”