NORMAL — Ameren officials want Twin City residents to tell them where the company should add power lines connecting two existing substations and a new substation to be built by 2021.
"There are a lot of segments possible," said Project Manager Jamie Stone of the lines, to be built north of Interstates 55 and 74 and across the town of Normal from Ameren's Normal East Substation to its McLean County Substation off County Road 2100N west of Hudson.
"The purpose of our open houses is for folks to tell us what works. ... By the third open house, we'll have a strong pathway."
Ameren started taking comments at an open house last week at Illinois State University. The company plans two more public sessions, in October and November, and also is taking comments at mcleancountyreliabilityproject.com.
"To engineer (the segments) a little further, we give them to the Illinois Commerce Commission, and they're ultimately responsible for selecting a final route," said Stone.
Ameren will then contact customers along that route to negotiate easements — "details of the project, property rights needed, location of the easement, and compensation will be discussed with each landowner," according to the project's website.
That's scheduled for 2018 and 2019.
The company plans to spend $21 million on the project that is intended to strengthen its network for additional customers and more reliable service. It's being paid for by an existing surcharge on Ameren bills.
The utility plans to bid the project, and local contractors could work on it, said Stone, adding officials will "work with the local union halls for whatever contractor is awarded the work."
"We anticipate construction to be done in 2020, and there might be some cleanup and restoration efforts in the first quarter of 2021," she said.
The additional substation is expected to be near the existing Normal East Substation, near the I-55 exit east of town that leads to Veterans Parkway. The infrastructure, including 10 miles of new lines and a 12-foot-tall steel tower, are expected to be in use by the end of 2020.
"We're looking at improving reliability in the area to ensure shortened outages during weather events or equipment failures, and we're here to get as much public feedback as we can," said Stone.