New power poles: Shorewood resident calls them ‘ominous,’ ComEd says they look more natural

New version of transmission pole replaces galvanized steel

Gary Powers said he and some of his Shorewood neighbors kept waiting for the new, rusty-looking ComEd transmission poles to be painted until it was apparent they never were going to look any different.

The new style of transmission poles are going up everywhere.

ComEd has been installing them for months around the state and locally along the same path where it has had transmission lines for decades, including areas of Joliet and Plainfield.

ComEd says they’re less expensive, more maintenance free and fit better into the landscape than the traditional galvanized steel transmission poles.

Powers says they are “dark-looking, ominous things. I think a lot of people thought they would be painted. They stand out. You drive down our street, and the first thing you see is these ugly poles.”

He isn’t the only person to voice dissatisfaction with the new look to the landscape being created by ComEd.

The village has heard from others mainly concerned about “the look,” said Shorewood Mayor Clarence “CC” DeBold.

“We’ve heard from some,” DeBold said. “It’s not like we got oodles and oodles.”

There were enough complaints that the village contacted ComEd and was told the company is committed to the new look.

“They feel it blends in more naturally,” DeBold said. “That’s kind of ComEd’s thing about it. The brown blends in more naturally with the landscape.”

The village did not have a say in ComEd’s choice of transmission poles.

ComEd spokesman John Schoen confirmed that the company sees an aesthetic value in the new style of transmission poles and has no plans to paint them.

“These particular poles as they age look more like wood,” Schoen said. “We feel that’s a more natural look, so we would not paint them.”

The poles also have economic value.

“We’re using them more and more in our system,” Schoen said. “They cost less than the galvanized steel poles, and they’re more durable.”

That is what Powers thinks is the primary reason for the use of the new poles.

Powers, an engineer who lives in the Westminster Gardens subdivision, said that with metal of a certain thickness, rust on the surface prevents continued rust. He believes the new poles come with a rust coating that avoids the need for continued maintenance to prevent corrosion.

“They design that to be a rusty surface because it’s maintenance free,” Powers said.

However, he thinks the poles look cheap, too, and degrade the neighborhoods where they’re erected.

“There’s no question that galvanizing is an expense,” he said. “Things that are treated or galvanized or powder-coated are more expensive. These are cheaper.”

ComEd still is erecting galvanized transmission poles. Powers thinks local communities should have a say in which poles they get.

The new poles would blend into the landscape if they were the height of trees, he said. But they rise high above trees into the sky.

Galvanized poles, Powers said, “are all silver. There’s a reason for that. They blend into the sky.”