Utility poles, much like the trees they are made from, are subject to rot and decay. Even with preservative treatments that are used to protect them against environmental factors, the life a pole ranges from only 25-50 years (depending on its surrounding climate and other ecological influences). Aside from natural deterioration, poles can be damaged due to car accidents, incidents of extreme weather and other events. Regardless of the reason, when a pole’s time is up and it needs to be replaced, all of the lines attached to it (power, cable, phone, etc.) must be transferred to the new pole, so the old pole can be removed. Each company that occupies space on the pole must be sent a “Transfer Notice” and is then expected to transfer equipment from the old utility pole to the new utility pole. Often, the process doesn’t exactly work out this way, and two poles remain in the place where there used to be one. The result? A double pole problem or “double wood,” if you prefer.
A double pole is a problem for multiple reasons. Depending on the city of ordinance, there can be penalties and fines (up to $1,000 per pole, per month) associated with the untimely removal of retired poles. Not only is it an eyesore for the community in which it stands, but citizens argue that it blocks visibility and obstructs sidewalks, even impeding snow removal in certain geographic regions. Old utility poles that remain have the potential to do even more harm if their weakened state leads them to fall over.
It is ultimately the responsibility of the pole owner to eliminate double poles. However, eliminating double poles and ensuring they don’t happen in the first place is a complicated and time-consuming process because it involves many different companies (like the electricity company, the cable company, the phone service company, the street light company, etc.). Each company has to be notified of the need to transfer their equipment from one pole to the other, and this process has to be carried out, before the old pole can be removed.
With every problem comes a solution! There are many things utility pole owners can do to ensure that double poles are taken care of, and that they don’t even happen in the first place. Perhaps the biggest thing? Good communication between joint use parties.
A system that allows open communication, specifically between the pole owner and the attaching companies who have equipment on the poles, is one of the most important factors when it comes to eradicating double poles. Not only do the attachers need to be notified they have to transfer their equipment, but they have to be informed of when they can do so, which often depends on when the other company with an attachment to a pole has transferred theirs. As one might imagine, coordinating such a sequential process can prove difficult, especially when additional factors, like weather, are involved. Being able to effectively communicate information such as transfer timelines and work status can help facilitate such projects. Plus, improved effective communication fosters better relationships between pole owners and attachers. In the world of joint use, pole owners and attachers must know they can trust their partners provide the info needed in a timely manner.