Thursday, February 28, 2008
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Illinois State Fairgrounds Closed Through Late May

Electrical Failures Lead to 22.7 Miles of Cable Replacement

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[February 28, 2008]  SPRINGFIELD -- Capital Development Board Construction Administrator Ron Wright and Illinois Department of Agriculture Director Chuck Hartke announced Wednesday that a state-funded emergency construction project is under way to repair the recently discovered, widespread high-voltage electric system failures caused by deteriorating, more than 25-year-old underground lines at the Illinois State Fairgrounds. The fairgrounds will be closed to all activity through late May to allow crews to replace 120,000 feet of high-voltage cable as quickly as possible without exposing people to potentially hazardous situations.

"The Illinois State Fairgrounds is a very important state resource. And, making sure the facilities are safe for everyone who depends on them is our top priority," said Wright. "Most of the electric cable underneath the fairgrounds is more than 25 years old, and unless it is replaced we will continue to experience failures. This monumental project is also a prime example of why lawmakers need to approve a capital construction bill. Governor Blagojevich has called for a capital bill for five years that would address the state's infrastructure needs, and this is another example of why we can't wait any longer."

"I commend the Capital Development Board for their prompt attention to this matter," Hartke said. "The fairgrounds are utilized throughout the year, not just during the 10 days of the Illinois State Fair, and this project will ensure they remain a center of activity and a popular community gathering place."

Bids for the estimated $3 million project will be opened on March 12, with work to begin immediately following the contract award. The project will involve replacing approximately 120,000 feet (22.7 miles) of underground 12,470-volt copper cable that is the main source of electricity for the entire 366-acre fairgrounds. The electrical work at the state fairgrounds will be paid for by re-prioritizing a limited amount of funds available for work at state facilities.

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The Capital Development Board hired HDR Engineering, a nationwide firm with offices in Springfield, on Jan. 31 to determine the source of electrical problems at the fairgrounds. A cable fault on Jan. 25 caused a power outage to a portion of the grounds. Then, on Jan. 28, a single pad-mounted switching cabinet was damaged by another cable fault, and on Feb. 15 a manhole cover was blown from its opening, also due to a cable fault. Power was shut off to the majority of the fairgrounds following these incidents so HDR's experts in high-voltage systems could safely test nearly 24,000 feet of underground cable. HDR discovered that most of the cable was nearing the end of its recommended service life and was experiencing insulation failures at numerous locations around the fairgrounds. They determined that additional, potentially hazardous electrical failures along the 12,470-volt lines were possible.

The successful bidder for the project will install new high-voltage underground cable and a new grounding system at the fairgrounds and replace the damaged switching cabinet. Working in sections, crews will pull the old cable from its concrete-encased conduit system, use a special camera to check conduit integrity and clean the interior of the conduit before pulling in new cables.

All of the public events scheduled through late May at the fairgrounds have been relocated, rescheduled or canceled. The Department of Agriculture, Department of Natural Resources and University of Illinois Cooperative Extension Service offices remain open since they are on separate electrical circuits. For a list of previously scheduled fairgrounds events and their status, visit or call 217-782-1698.

[Text from Capital Development Board file received from the Illinois Office of Communication and Information]

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