Cathy Carroll

Qwest Communications International rarely must spend at least $500,000 to relocate 1,000 feet of telephone wiring, but it is in the midst of doing just that in Bend.

The company is putting its cables 40 feet below the Deschutes River in preparation for reconstruction of the Newport Avenue Bridge next year. Workers are boring a 720-foot-long hole under the river through basalt rock, so as not to disturb the river bed, said Joe Dairy, senior design engineer for Qwest.

Brooks Street was closed at Newport Avenue on Friday and traffic in the area may be delayed on Monday, he said.

The city of Bend required Qwest to put the cables beneath the river before reconstruction of the bridge, which currently has the telephone wiring attached beneath it, he said.

”All of our copper and fiber-optics cables feed across the bridge to serve all of northwest and southwest Bend,” Dairy said.

Contractors began the work April 4. To create the hole, workers dug a pit on each side of the river and drilled from one side, guiding it with a video locator. Workers first made a 6.5-inch hole through to the opposite bank, then bored through with a 15-inch drill bit and then a 23-inch drill bit, Dairy said.

On Friday, workers were clearing the 23-inch-diameter hole. Beginning next week, workers will pull conduits through the hole under the river. In June, Qwest will put new copper and fiber-optic cables through the conduit and splice the cables together in a 6-foot-deep utility vault, or manhole.

The work will continue throughout the summer and must end by Oct. 1, Dairy said.

”I've never seen this done,” Dairy said.

Qwest has not previously put phone lines under a river in Central Oregon, said Michael Dunne, a spokesman for the company.

Underground Specialties Inc. of Bend subcontracted the boring work to Earth Energy of Boise, Idaho, which specializes in such projects, Dunne said.