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Providing for your energy needs today... and tomorrow

Topeka is where many of us work, live, play and dream. During the past half-century, our hometown has grown into a sprawling and vibrant community. The city - and its power usage - has grown significantly, putting stress on the existing transmission system, which is at capacity and due for upgrades.

To keep pace with today's energy demands, it's time to replace and upgrade the electrical infrastructure that was built more than 60 years ago, when Topeka was a very different place.

Investing in our community
  • Increased reliability and safety
  • A reduction in storm damage and costs
  • Decreased outages or "blips"
  • A modern and efficient grid that stands ready for the future

We are committed to helping make out community a great place to live and work, ensuring we provide dependable power for years to come. Thank you for your interest in our project.

Project timeline

Planning for the line was announced in 2012, and the route was announced in 2013. Prep work began this past March, and actual construction began in early May. We are well under way to completing much of the work this fall, and plan to complete all of it by the end of the 2014. Once the line is in operation, we will go through and remove more than 230 wooden street light and power poles along the route.

About the new line

Mirroring efforts in cities across the country and to meet federal reliability regulations, we chose steel poles, about 100 feet tall. These poles offer greater benefits, including a “cleaner” appearance once construction is complete. They also meet the national electrical codes for safety and clearance. The new line will carry 115 kilovolts of electricity and will enable us to remove lower voltage lines in the city. These poles will also hold the distribution lines and streetlights that serve the neighborhoods along the route. Knowing it would cost three times more, create larger construction zones, impact more homes and businesses and cause greater changes to the landscape, we chose not to bury these lines.

The route

The line will connect the substation at S.W. 17th and Fairlawn with the Education Substation at Kanza Education and Science Park near S.W. 6th and MacVicar. It will exit the Education Substation, heading west just south of Interstate 70 to Gage Blvd. It will then follow along Gage to S.W. 6th Street and S.W. 6th to S.W. Fairlawn Road, at which point it will follow Fairlawn to the existing substation at S.W. 17th and Fairlawn.

Additional benefits

The new line and taller poles can accommodate more efficient LED street lighting, which saves an average of 40 to 50 percent over comparable high-pressure sodium options. The larger poles and new, brighter streetlights also only need to stand on one side of the street, reducing infrastructure in some areas. When compared with older, wooden, treated poles, these steel poles last longer, and deliver more reliable electricity as they are impervious to insects, rot and most weather conditions, and they are 100 percent recyclable at the end of their long service lives.

Topeka transmission modernization frequently asked questions
Why is the project needed

To answer that, one really only needs to think about how much Topeka has grown and changed these past decades. Think about what west Topeka looked like in 1985. Anything west of Fairlawn was pretty much a cow pasture. Imagine how much electricity is used today in west Topeka, and think about Topeka’s growth over the next 50 years. That’s what this project is all about.

How was the route determined

We start with electrical engineering. Once we know how the power needs to flow, we identify the possible routes that could accomplish that. Then we meet with the public and homeowners to hear their ideas and concerns, combine that information with the electrical engineering data and settle on a final route.

Does the electrical system in other parts of the city need improvements, too?

It does. Customer needs throughout the city have changed. Between 2010 and 2017, Westar will complete about 20 transmission related projects that total more than $150 million in investments to modernize the electrical grid in Topeka and Shawnee County.

Can the line be put underground?

Yes, but it would be cost-prohibitive and tremendously more disruptive to traffic and businesses along the construction route. Overhead construction means almost no blocking out of business traffic during construction. We’ve all seen how digging up roads can put folks out of business during longer construction projects. Building the line overhead along the current route will cost about $8.5 million. To build the line underground would cost about $28 million (3x that).

What will the line and poles look like?

The line will be supported on steel single pole structures about 100 feet tall. This height is necessary to allow for the transmission, distribution and streetlights all to be on a single set of poles.

What is the voltage of the line?

The new line will carry 115 kilovolts of electricity. It will enable us to remove lower voltage (34.5kv) transmission lines in the city.

Did the Kansas Corporation Commission conduct a public hearing?

No, the scope of this project is below the threshold that requires the Kansas Corporate Commission proceedings. While the formal process is not required for this project, Westar reached out to area homeowners and other property owners and gathered public input when selecting the route and used a very similar process as that required for lines the KCC reviews.

What will happen to the trees along the route?

As part of federal reliability regulations, trees within the easement along the route will have to be removed. This requirement is a result of the blackout several years ago in the eastern US where it was found that vegetation along lines in Ohio created a cascading event that left a good portion of the Northeast in the dark for several days. The regulations for high voltage lines are VERY specific about this, pole and line height, etc.

Where is the new substation?

The new substation is near Interstate 70 and MacVicar on the grounds of the Kanza Science and Education Park. This new substation will incorporate educational features to help students and other visitors better understand how the substation and the electrical grid operate. You can learn more about this at We’ll invite the public out to an open house event when it is fully operational.

Where are the substations that will be retired?

The substations at S.W. 7th and Fairlawn, S.W. 7th and Watson, Potwin, S.W. 12th and Lakeside and the former Topeka State hospital grounds will be retired.

When will the substations be decommissioned?

The decommissioning of the substations will take place over the next 5-10 years.

What will happen to the land the substations are on?

Once the substations are fully decommissioned, we will look at their locations and consider if a small neighborhood park is appropriate, in which case we would work with Shawnee County to turn the land over to it. If the area is not suitable for a small park, we may approach neighboring landowners to potentially acquire the land to expand their yards or parking lots, for example. If not, we’ll simply maintain it for the neighborhoods.

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