FPL power pole upgrade jams traffic, damages grass

PHOTO BY BRENDA AHEARN

Complaints by south beach residents about midday traffic jams on Highway A1A, south of 17th Street, last week prompted FPL to shift lane closures to the overnight hours for the installation of new concrete power poles.

PHOTO PROVIDED

The utility pole replacement project and related lane closures on A1A caught many by surprise, considering an average of 17,500 vehicles per day travel on the barrier island’s primary thoroughfare.

“What I’d like to know is what is going on, because I don’t know and I haven’t been able to find out,” Sharon Strassner, of Sea Grove East, told Vero Beach 32963 last week.

“The two days I sat in traffic, it was like 20 minutes of sitting totally at a dead stop and then it would go 100 yards,” Strassner said. “Coming back across the bridge, it was like a total disaster when you got to A1A and 17th Street. Traffic was backed up in all four areas and everybody was fighting to get into the middle.

“It’s never been worse,” Strassner added.

PHOTO PROVIDED

Jeffrey Williams of the Moorings also wondered about the lane closures on A1A while workers using large utility trucks replaced the power poles and lines.

“There’s been some terrific traffic backups the last couple of days,” Williams said. 

“They had taken it down to one lane, so they had to stop traffic one way and then stop it the other way,” Williams said. “Traffic was backed up for a couple of miles. I waited in line for 20 minutes. It would have been nice if they would have warned us there would be lane closures.”

The only other route off the barrier island for residents south of the work zone is taking A1A to Fort Pierce and getting onto U.S. 1.

“You don’t have any choice if you’re heading north,” Williams said. “There’s no way you can get around it, so it would have been nice for them to forewarn us.”

Ruts the utility trucks left in the grass shoulder, particularly in the vicinity of Pelican Lane and Castaway Cove, also are concerning, Williams said.

“They have just torn up the grass shoulder, which is very sodden from all the rain in October and November,” Williams said. “It’s just big ruts and damage.”

FPL spokesperson Marie Bertot said the grassy shoulder along A1A will be fully restored once the pole replacement project is completed in December 2021.

The project started in October as part FPL’s assimilation of the Vero Beach Electric Utility, which it acquired in December 2018, Bertot said. 

“Vero Beach is a fairly new area to FPL,” Bertot said. “So, we’re strengthening the grid so it can be more storm- resistant and more reliable.”

The goal is to harden Vero Beach’s main power lines against hurricane damage as part of FPL’s long-term project Storm Secure, Bertot said. The work includes installation of 67 new concrete power poles and associated infrastructure along A1A from Periwinkle Drive to Gracewood Lane.

FDOT approved the traffic plan for A1A, Bertot said. FPL also contracted the Florida Highway Patrol to assist traffic management.

“Advanced notice from FPL and coordination with local agencies would have gone a long way to reduce the frustration that occurred this week,” Vero Beach Public Works Director Matt Mitts said.

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