When Conway’s downtown was built, overhead power lines were the conventional method of delivering electricity to the area’s homes and businesses. Over time, the overhead wires, utility poles and other heavy-duty equipment became eyesores and detracted from the city’s historic skyline of steeples and spires. When Santee Cooper, the electric provider, approached Conway officials about moving the utility lines underground, the city jumped at the idea.

To finance the endeavor, the city and Santee Cooper established a fund dedicated solely to the project. The city amended its franchise agreement with Santee Cooper to provide for the project’s funding. The city contributes 2 percent of its franchise fee to the fund, which is matched dollar-for-dollar by Santee Cooper.

Completely reconfiguring the city’s grid was time-consuming and sometimes messy. The city worked with merchants to mitigate the economic impact of construction and asked the contractors to schedule their work around peak shopping seasons and special events. Conway homeowners were patient with the project as well, understanding that progress isn’t always fast and easy.

In a dramatic transformation, Santee Cooper removed 13,200 feet of aerial power lines from the downtown and commercial areas. As the poles, transformers and overhead wiring came down, the distinctive character of Conway’s historic district was revealed. To enhance the conversion, the city installed new, decorative street lights and lamp posts to illuminate the facades.

Using downtown as a blueprint, Conway officials hope to begin a multiphase conversion project along the city’s main thoroughfare through town soon.

Contact Bill Graham at or 843.248.1760.