For weeks, commuters on Highway 92 couldn’t help but notice a conspicuous utility pole that had broken in half and was leaning precariously over the road, seemingly supported by yellow tape. It was less obvious that the wiring on that pole was the lifeline for much of the data communication coming in and out of the Coastside. The pole was replaced on Thursday night.
The line that hung on the drooping pole, near La Nebbia Winery, controlled the bulk of all the phone and data traffic. Utility experts conclude it would have been devastating if it had been severed.
“It’s a big important line. If that line had gone out it would have affected voice and data in Half Moon Bay,” said John Britton, spokesman for AT&T. “But it didn’t, and that’s a good thing.”
The pole was originally damaged in late August when a car veered off the highway in the westbound lane and knocked it over. As a temporary fix, engineering crews secured the pole to a nearby tree.
At the time, AT&T engineers say they couldn’t repair the damage because doing so would have required closing one lane of traffic and that requires clearance from Caltrans. Utility companies are able to obtain an emergency permit only in cases when vital services are in danger of being severed. Despite the danger, this leaning pole didn’t reach that threshold, according to AT&T.
It reportedly took three weeks for the utility company to receive permission from Caltrans.
Rob Genovesi, owner of Coastside.net, was surprised to hear that AT&T officials were saying that line was the main communications link between the Coastside and the rest of the Bay Area. He recalled a similar situation about 10 years ago, when a landslide damaged a similar line. For about 24 hours, locals lost Internet access, and they could only make phone calls to other numbers on the Coastside.
“It’s scary if that’s the main line, and it’s been in that condition for so long,” he said.