Light-rail system gets its first power substation


"We tried to do something that could fit environmentally and not stick out like a sore thumb," John von Briesen, project manager, says of the 70,000-pound, green boxlike structures that will supply electricity for the Central Light Rail System.

The power substations are "environmentally sensitive" and will blend with their woody surroundings, von Briesen said yesterday as he watched the first one being installed at North Avenue and the Jones Falls Expressway.

Normally, substations are silver-colored to reflect the sun.

"It's an important milestone," von Briesen said of the installation. "It's the first one we've put in place. It shows how far along we are.

"We're on budget and on time," he said of the 29-mile, $446 million project. "We'll be open next spring and have service to the [Camden Yards] stadium on Opening Day."

The light-rail system will link Hunt Valley, the city and Glen Burnie. It will take about 40 minutes to travel from the stadium to the Hunt Valley Mall on the trains, which have a top speed of 50 mph, von Briesen said.

The preassembled substation, the first of 14, was hauled by truck from Canton, Ohio, where it was built by Controlled Power Corp.

Each of the $500,000, graffiti-resistant substations measures 40 feet by 14 feet and weighs approximately 70,000 pounds, the state Mass Transit Administration said.

"The trolley operates off of direct current like a battery," said von Briesen. So "the building [will] alternate 13,000 volts of alternating current into 750 DC."

The direct current then passes on to the overhead system of electrical wires, called the catenary, which propels the light-rail trains and is about 18 feet above the ground.

A substation is due to be installed every two to three weeks at every 1.5 to 2.5 miles of track.

Copyright © 2021, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad