New transmission lines blot landscape along Arboretum and Dunn’s Marsh neighborhood

This August, the American Transmission Company (ATC) finished putting up new towers that pass the Arboretum and the Dunn’s Marsh Neighborhood along the West Beltline.

The new high power lines will carry 345 kilovolts of bulk electricity from a substation in Cambridge to another in Middleton. Power is distributed to customers from the substations. ATC identified the need for the project in 2002. Construction started last fall, and the system is expected to be operational in the summer of 2013.

Neighborhood residents, and many others, objected to the overhead lines, preferring buried lines or none at all. The poles stand 90 to 150 feet tall, dwarfing everything in sight.

Other issues that remain include a hum of up to 60 decibels in humid weather -- equivalent to heavy traffic at 300 feet -- electromagnetic fields, and clear-cutting of wooded areas in a swath 150 feet wide.

After Labor Day, ATC began work to lower 3 or 4 of the poles along the Beltline between Todd Drive and Seminole Highway, because they turned out to be too visible from the Arboretum. The whole idea of lower Y-shaped poles along the Arboretum was to keep the horizon clear and protect birds flying from one part of the Arboretum to the other across the Beltline.

Explore the slideshow below to see the installation and adjustment of these towers.

Mary Mullen is the newsletter editor for the Dunn's Marsh Neighborhood Association. She contributed all pictures and text in this report.


ATC lines

Now... are we here in MadTown using the electricity being carried on these lines, or are these lines carrying it from A to B and we just happen to be in the way?


This is a spinoff company from the power companies doing this.  There must be tax and regulatory advantages or they would have not formed and spun off ATC.  I expect that the company will sell itself to some Giganto-Multinational that's buying up power lines, roads and water supplies, so then our power transmission will be controlled by absentee landlords who have no interest in us or Madison, only money.


Routing this power through our city is like the industry geniuses who route nuclear waste shipments through cities because they have better roads. 


Let's hope these towers and lines are made of superman-stuff that will never weaken or break (or be substandard from the factory, but that would NEVER happen!).  Can you imagine a 345 KV line flopping around on the beltline... at rush hour?

 I would not work or live along that line.  I'll try to avoid riding near it.

Plaques on ATC poles

The plaques welded to the ATC poles are easily deciphered.   Here's how:

Line 1 - ATC means American Transmission Company

Line 2 - STR #122037  is the ID number of this pole.  Each has a different number.

Line 3 - 157' - 9" is the height of the pole.  In the case of poles bolted to concrete foundations, presumably this is the height above the ground level.  Some poles are embedded in the ground.  Poles come in many different heights.

Line 4 - STA stands for "Station."  Anything listed after this would be a nearbylandmark.  In the past when Wisconsin was first surveyed, large trees called "bearing trees" would be listed here along with the direction and distance to the tree.

Line 5 - 06/11  means the manufacturing date of the pole, June 2011 in this case.

Line 6 - 25,200 lb means that this pole weighs that much.  It doesn't include the insulators.

Lines 7 & 8 are the code numbers for the blueprint for this particular pole, in this case 6-B50/366674-10-1.