|Some of the trees that bloom along Beech Street each spring will be removed by PECO in the coming weeks as part of a $5 million electrical infrastructure upgrade|
PECO has begun a $5 million upgrade to electrical infrastructure in Pottstown Borough that will require the removal of 39 street trees.
PECO spokesman Greg Smore said the project will require the replacement of 132 utility poles, as well as installing 14 new ones and the stringing of 18,000 feet of new electric wires.
"We're installing new equipment and upgrading lower-voltage circuits to higher voltage," Smore said Tuesday.
New devices called "re-closers" will also be put up on the poles. "Think of it as a kind of circuit breaker," Smore explained.
When a line is downed, either by weather or a vehicle collision, the device will shut down and isolate the issue, "and that will minimize the outage," Smore said.
"This project was developed to support the retirement of an older substation and will modernize the local electric infrastructure," Smore wrote in an email to MediaNews Group.
The improvements are designed to to enhance reliability, increase capacity to meet increased electric usage, and support the future growth of solar-generated power, according to Smore.
"In terms of reliability, the project will also reduce both the frequency and duration of outages for customers in the area," he wrote.
The majority of this construction work will take place along Adams, Bailey, Beech, Chestnut, Evans, Franklin, Grant, King, Sheridan, Walnut, Warren, and Washington Streets, as well as Buttonwood, Lesher, and Rowen Alleys, Lincoln Avenue, and Old State Road.
According to Smore, the trees being taken out are due to their location where new poles, or higher replacement poles, are required for the upgrades.
Specific cross streets were not available.
The tree removals are expected to be completed by January and the power upgrade project to be completed by the fall of 2021, said Smore.
Tree removals will not occur on every street referenced above and "we worked with the borough to minimize the number of tree removals as much as possible," Smore said.
PECO will not replace, or pay to replace, the street trees it removes, said Smore.
"The borough can apply for training, trees and grants through the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society and their Tree Tenders or Treevitalize watersheds programs to add more trees to the community," Smore wrote.
"There are a variety of trees and shrubs with heights of less than 25 feet which are compatible for planting under electric distribution lines," Smore added.
Pottstown Borough Manager Justin Keller indicated that "PECO is working with us to find a TreeVitalize grant and they have reached out to local tree tender organizations to help identify volunteers."
Keller explained, "the way these grants work is TreeVitalize will provide the trees but the trees will have to be planted by volunteers per the terms of the grant and some of the volunteers have to be certified tree tenders."