More than 175 steel transmission poles nearly 80 feet tall are replacing smaller wooden ones along a north-south thoroughfare between Riverhead and Eastport as PSEG Long Island fortifies the system in a $31.7 million project to improve reliability.

Some in the area say the work, begun last month, has been disrupting homes and businesses near Eastport’s business center as PSEG uses heavy machinery to install the new poles in place of aging wooden ones that are shorter, thinner and more prone to storm damage.

“They’re putting one right in the middle of my parking lot,” said Donny Olish, owner of Olish Farm Country Market, who said he and many other businesses never received advance notice from PSEG. “It’s just going to take the integrity out of Eastport. These are like radio towers.”

PSEG spokesman Jeff Weir said the steel poles are needed to harden the system against storms. The wooden poles “do not meet our standards” for the 69,000-volt lines, he said.

PSEG is also replacing transmission cables along the 7-mile stretch of roadway, which borders preserved woodlands and a sod farm to the north along County Road 51, and equipment from which the wires are strung. Outside crews are helping in the work, which is expected to be completed next month.

PSEG is replacing older wooden poles on Eastport Manor Road and Country Road 51 in Eastport with stronger, 80-foot poles.  Photo Credit: Newsday / Mark Harrington

Homes and businesses at the south end of the route say the work has been disruptive. “They’ve been digging holes and shaking the entire building,” said Tom Tascarella, an employee at Tech Connect Cell Phone Repair, which is based in a small building at the corner of Montauk Highway and Eastport-Manor Road. He said it appears one new pole might cover the store’s sign. “We’re a little annoyed,” he said. “We have to move the sign.”

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Weir said the nearly 80-foot tall and fatter steel transmission poles were used instead of wood because they allow the utility to use fewer of them while improving storm resilience. The transmission line connects a substation in Eastport to one northwest in Riverhead. Substations reduce and distribute higher-voltage power from plants and other sources to lower voltages used in homes and businesses.

Asked if the poles presented a greater hazard to drivers on the curved, narrow stretch of Eastport-Manor Road and other places, Weir said PSEG worked with Suffolk County on the location of the poles, which are a few feet from the edge of the roadway. Some limited sections of guardrails are being replaced, he said. But most of the new steel poles have no such protection.

The region between Eastport and Moriches is served by just two 69,000-volt transmission lines, making the work more critical, Weir said. “The loss of one of these supplies during summer peak load days could result in potential interruptions to customers in the area,” he said.