An upgrade to some of Liberty’s oldest electric infrastructure in Joplin is now fully underway as the utility works to replace lines, poles and add new substations downtown that officials said will improve reliability.

Much of that infrastructure was built between the 1940s and 1960s, and the work, which began this spring, is expected to take two years. Liberty also is working with contractors Capital Electric and Burns and McDonnell to build two new substations to replace three older downtown substations.

“We’re going from a 4,000-volt system to a 12,000-volt system,” said Adam Greek, construction manager with the Joplin-based utility.

The work is taking place across an area that measures about 15 blocks north to south, from A Street to 15th Street, and about 15 blocks east to west, from Porter Avenue to Illinois Avenue, according to the company.

Greek said the 4-kilovolt system is outdated and some circuits in downtown Joplin are not compatible with the surrounding 12 kilovolt systems, creating an island of sorts out of the downtown.

He also said energy consumption has increased among businesses and residents in the area and is likely to continue to do so, and the upgrades will allow crews to restore power more quickly during outages as well as reduce the number of customers affected by an outage.

The project also will mean replacing wooden poles with metal poles that can withstand more severe weather.

“As we modernize and move to 12 kV infrastructure, replacing that with a more aesthetically pleasing structure will free up some of the space in those alleyways,” said Jimmy Turner, another construction manager with Liberty. “It’s a beautification aspect, really.”

In all, the company said 15 miles of overhead conductor line will be replaced, as will hundreds of transformers and fiberglass cross arms.

As part of the project, Liberty officials said there will be planned outages, and it is working with customers to notify them in advance, as well as reduce the impact by having crews work nights and weekends. Some streets also may be closed and traffic rerouted.

Liberty officials also said the project will contribute to economic growth downtown when completed.

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