Tag Archive for: entergy delay

Entergy Delay Forces Change to Northpark Expansion Plan…Again

6/15/2024 – Fireworks erupted in the Lake Houston Redevelopment Authority/TIRZ-10 Board Meeting on 6/13/24 over more Entergy delays related to the Northpark Expansion plan.

Four years after being notified to move its power poles and a transformer, Entergy still has equipment blocking the expansion. Ralph De Leon, the TIRZ project manager, explained that as a consequence, the TIRZ has been forced to modify its plans yet again.

Power Poles Conflict with Westbound Detour

Original plans called for routing westbound traffic in the vicinity of the bridge over the railroad and Loop 494 onto permanent turn lanes next to businesses. However, because Entergy power poles still stand where those turn lanes would go, LHRA decided to move traffic south, parallel to the existing eastbound lanes. See blacktop in photos and schematic diagram below.

Looking ESE from over Loop 494. Instead of funneling outbound traffic into new permanent lanes in front of the businesses on the left, commuters will use temporary lanes built on the blacktop. Photo 6/13/24.
Looking west toward US59 at asphalt that will become temporary westbound lanes. Photo 6/13/24.

The permanent concrete lanes originally were to have gone in the grassy area to the right where the first line of poles is.

Here’s a schematic diagram of the change.

For full, high-res PDF, click here.

Cost Impact Not Yet Clear

Replacing permanent lanes with alternate temporary lanes means that LHRA now will build these lanes twice instead of once. That will increase the project cost. However, no-one in the meeting mentioned an exact dollar amount.

De Leon said that in order to stick with the original traffic diversion plan, the deadline for removing the poles was last year.

Yet Entergy has not yet moved its poles where the new lanes will go. Nor have they provided a timetable for removing the poles. However, Brian Garcia, Entergy’s project manager, expressed confidence that the last poles would be removed “soon.”

It would be safe to say that most other people in the board meeting did not share his optimism. Discussion got heated at times as LHRA tried to pin Entergy down regarding a deadline. Hence, my reference to fireworks above.

Representatives of the City and TIRZ also made it clear that they intended to deduct the cost of the temporary lanes from any money that Entergy might have been entitled to for moving its transformer near the Exxon Station.

Two Groups of Poles

Two separate pole issues exist:

  • The original poles between Benjamin Moore Paints and Loop 494
  • Three key poles near the intersection of Northpark and Loop 494

The first group of poles has been “de-energized.” That means transformers and electric wires have already been moved. However, the old poles still have a fiberoptic communication line hanging from them. (Two lines in places). See below.

Looking west toward US59. Old poles on left still have fiberoptic line on them which must be moved to new poles on right. Photo 6/13/24.

The owner(s) of those remaining line(s) on the left must move them before Entergy can take down the old poles. But the fiberoptic provider has had weeks and not moved its line(s).

At the end of the line of poles above on the left sit three key poles shown in the aerial view below.

These three poles provide a redundant source of energy for businesses along Northpark. The businesses are also fed by power from Kings Mill. Photo 6/13/24

In the power business, it’s a standard/best practice to feed areas from at least two different directions. That way, if power is knocked out on one leg, the other leg can still supply homes and businesses.

Entergy has two choices with these three poles. It could move them north and continue to feed redundant power to Northpark businesses with overhead lines. Or, it could tunnel under Loop 494 and the railroad tracks. Entergy prefers to bore under for reliability reasons.

Again, Entergy’s Garcia is confident that the easements TXDot and Union Pacific require will be easy to obtain and come quickly. But the City and TIRZ do not share his confidence. They struggled for years to obtain their own easements and permits.

So, rather than just move the overhead lines north, Entergy is negotiating with TXDoT and Union Pacific to bore under their properties.

Who Will Bear Increased Costs?

After repeatedly being asked to provide a timetable for compliance, Entergy supplied none and instead shifted the conversation to its costs.

The overhead lines have sufficed for years. But Garcia says that Entergy prefers the underground option.

However, if all parties do not complete construction before October, the entire project could be delayed for months and possibly even cancelled. According to De Leon, Turner Brothers’, the prime contractor with the TIRZ, has other projects stacked up and waiting.

Turner Brothers would have to redeploy crews if they can’t keep them working on Northpark. And there’s no guarantee when those crews would be available again to work on Northpark.

But when the boardroom discussion turned to the need for Entergy to act quickly, Entergy turned the discussion to cost.

Garcia says there’s a significant cost for Entergy to move its overhead lines. If the company can bore underground instead, it would prefer to do that rather move its lines twice.

As a consequence, the TIRZ will be forced to shift traffic twice to keep the project moving.

Moreover, both the TIRZ and Entergy face a firm deadline from the railroad, whose busy season starts in October. They must have boring complete well before then with time for the railroad to lay new track and install new signal equipment.

Meanwhile, Entergy still has not moved its transformer near the Exxon Station at US59.

Argument Over Reimbursement

The transformer is outside the City’s easement but the power poles are inside.

Under Texas law, Entergy is entitled to reimbursement for costs outside City easements, but not those inside.

Ralph De Leon, Northpark Expansion Project Manager

Paying to move poles inside City easements would constitute a “gift of public funds,” which is illegal.

The two sides reached a tentative agreement on reimbursement last December. But then in January, Entergy demanded double the agreed total – without explanation or itemization.

In the June TIRZ board meeting, Garcia said he still needed to get the itemized costs approved by his management.

TIRZ directors (who are unpaid volunteers) could become liable for illegal payments to Entergy, hence the demand for itemized costs.

Other Northpark News

The pace of construction has also slowed due to heavy rains in May, which still have soils wet. When they dry out, contractors will resume:

Preparing to pour new concrete

  • Demolishing old concrete near Loop 494
  • Excavating the south pond at the US59 entry
  • Installing culverts
Looking E at progress of culverts. Ponding water in ditch (foreground) has slowed installation. Photo 6/13/24

For More Information

For more information about Northpark expansion, visit the project pages of the LHRA/Tirz 10 website. Or see these posts on ReduceFlooding. Many contain information about previous delays that caused plan changes:

Posted by Bob Rehak on 6/15/24

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