Indiana Michigan Power plans $787M in upgrades

Indiana Michigan Power is proposing a $787 million overhaul for much of its electrical distribution system in northern and eastern Indiana.

The Fort Wayne-based company said its plan includes replacing hundreds of miles of miles of electric cable and thousands of utility poles, along with upgrades to underground networks in South Bend, Fort Wayne, Elkhart and Muncie.

Plans are for the upgrades to be done over a seven-year period beginning in 2015, with an increase of about 1 percent on the average customer bill, company officials said.

Indiana Michigan President Paul Chodak III said the project is aimed at updating aging infrastructure in order to improve reliability.

The project will be a boost for the region, said Mark Becker, CEO of the Greater Fort Wayne Inc. economic development group.

"Power outages are something that companies don't want to have to compensate for," Becker told The Journal Gazette. "Obviously, we need to be able to depend on reliable power."

The project needs the approval of the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission. Indiana Michigan, a subsidiary of American Electric Power, provides electricity to nearly 460,000 homes and businesses in the state.

Other parts of the company's proposal include a line-clearance plan to reduce power outages caused by trees and new substations in Fort Wayne, South Bend and Muncie.

Indiana Michigan announced a separate project in February for spending $500 million over eight years to rebuild power lines, install new transmission lines, build and upgrade substations and update other equipment.

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