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What happened to the plan to remove thousands of utility poles?

Catherine Cruz

Double poles, triple poles. They dot and blight the landscape statewide, but the vast majority are in Oʻahu neighborhoods. So whatever happened to the plan to begin removing them?

The Public Utilities Commission put pressure on Hawaiian Electric and Hawaiian Telcom years ago to take stock of who owned what in an inventory of some 120,000 poles.

An audit found a backlog of thousands of double poles that need to be fixed. In 2018, the utility companies agreed to a plan to have HECO buy the poles owned by Hawaiian Telecom and commit to a ten-year removal plan.

The Conversation asked for an update from Jim Kelly, vice president of communications for HECO.

A 2019 audit found about 9,400 double poles, Kelly said, meaning a replacement pole was installed next to a damaged one but both were left in place.

"We've removed about 2,500 of those poles and so we still have 6,500 more to go," he said. "We're coming up on five years and we have a ways to go, but we feel like we're at a pretty good pace and we'll accomplish what we committed to do."

This interview aired on The Conversation on March 14, 2023. The Conversation airs weekdays at 11 a.m. on HPR-1.

Catherine Cruz is the host of The Conversation. Originally from Guam, she spent more than 30 years at KITV, covering beats from government to education. Contact her at ccruz@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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