American Electric Power Continues Construction in Wheeling

Photo by Janet Metzner American Electric Power replaces underground electrical cables that date back to the 1950s on Main Street in downtown Wheeling.

WHEELING — With new construction comes new infrastructure. And right now, Wheeling’s getting both.

American Electric Power is investing $15 million to $20 million in replacing all of its old, secondary cables in downtown Wheeling, and, in some places, adding more to accommodate new construction, said spokeswoman Joelle Connors.

“It’s an exciting time for everyone,” she said of the project that, besides replacements, will add more cables to accommodate new construction at the $13 million, 73-unit Boury Lofts at 16th and Main streets, and the $16 million headquarters for The Health Plan that’s under construction in the 1100 blocks of Main and Market streets.

The system that’s being replaced is completely underground, and was built in the 1950s, Connors said.

“Secondary” refers to low-voltage facilities, including conductors, that serve businesses and homes, according to AEP’s website. Generally, they accommodate under 600 volts, it states.

Although AEP work will be different depending on the area of downtown, the whole system will change. The antiquated, 1950s system will be all-new by 2018, Connors said.

For example, the work currently taking place in front of The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register offices at 1500 Main St. will add more secondary cables in and replace the old ones, she said.

Specifically, the new and additional cables there will support the Boury Lofts, among other buildings, Connors said.

Recently, work was completed in the 1400 block of Market Street, near 7-Eleven. In that case, the secondary cables were replaced, but because there’s no new construction there, no additions were made, Connors said.

Construction activity that’s visible from the street doesn’t represent all that’s going on underground, Connors said. Rather, the construction sites at street level are merely entry points where AEP workers access and replace stretches of cables.

Connors said the street-visible work will be completed in about six months, and the entire system will be replaced by 2018.

AEP’s project spans approximately two to three years, said Russell Jebbia, Wheeling public works director.

Meanwhile, contractors for the city have begun a new $755,000 project to separate stormwater from sewage for the first time in downtown Wheeling.

They’re installing a new stormwater line, beginning at Big Wheeling Creek near Main Street Bridge, where the natural runoff along Main Street will exit. The line, with inlets, will extend up to The Health Plan’s building, and should be completed by summer, Jebbia said, adding that sewage — including waste from homes and businesses — will still go to the treatment plant.

Last month, the state confirmed to city officials that it will help fund a multi-million dollar streetscaping project that would improve downtown sidewalks, landscaping, repaving and more, including in the area of The Health Plan.