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Upgrades Could Help Cut Number, Length of Power Outages

National Grid on Thursday is unveiling an $11 million dollar project to upgrade service on Cape Ann and the North Shore that will benefit customers in Hamilton and Wenham.

National Grid will announce Thursday a $11 million dollar electrical infrastructure improvement project it says will improve service reliability in Hamilton and Wenham.

The company is upgrading 15 miles of underground cable systems that will add capacity to its distribution system as well as add redundancy to its system that it says will help in the event of a power outage.

The improvements will also add reliability to service in Essex, Gloucester, Manchester-by-the-Sea and Rockport.

“A top priority at National Grid is to provide safe and reliable service to customers and businesses in the communities we serve,” said Marcy Reed, president of National Grid in Massachusetts in the company's written announcement of the work. “Continuous investment in our infrastructure is vital to help reduce the occurrence of power outages and assure that we have capacity on the system to allow for economic growth."

The project involves installing new underground cable in an existing manhole and duct system that runs through Beverly, Manchester-by-the-Sea and Gloucester. Crews will be installing the cable along Route 127 in Manchester, and on Magnolia Avenue, Essex Avenue, Western Avenue and Main Street in Gloucester.

In addition to the new cable, the company will be upgrading existing equipment in its substations in Beverly, Manchester and Gloucester that will enhance the reliability of National Grid's system and improve the length of time it takes to restore power during outages.

It is the length of time to restore power that prompted some concern by Hamilton Town Manager Michael Lombardo, who had previously expressed concern about frequent power outages affecting the town.

He said company was, overall, responsive throughout Hurricane Sandy but his concern revolved mainly around the delay in getting a significant number of line crews into the town after the storm, "which was the source of the delay in getting several streets opened timely, and the point of our frustration," he said.

"From a public safety perspective, having streets blocked for several days is a concern," he said, adding that he was "mindful though of the magnitude of the event and so while I express my frustration and concern, I am understanding and sympathetic" since the town was fortunate compared to many other communities.

This work could play a part in getting power restored to customers in the two towns in the event of outages in the future.

The work will be completed by ElecComm, which is one of the largest underground and overhead voltage electric and communications line construction companies in New England.

“We are thrilled to be working with National Grid on this highly sensitive project while upgrading underground cable and improving power reliability for its cities and towns in the Cape Ann area,” said Sean Martin, the company's executive vice president said in announcing the project.

National Grid began work on the infrastructure upgrades in September and has completed 20 percent of the project. The project is scheduled to be completed by June 1, 2013.

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