SHAMOKIN - The repaving of sections of Independence Street will be the final major project in the effort to replace 44 street lights in the city's main business district.

PPL Electric Utilities reported Thursday the new street lights have been powered up and the entire project will be completed by early May, about a month ahead of schedule.

"We're pleased to be able to wrap up this project early and completed as the remaining work, including sidewalk repairs, by early May," said Christina Sepich, regional director of operations for PPL Electric Utilities.

The last major part of the project will involve repaving sections of Independence Street disturbed by the project. Paving will occur Monday, April 28, and Tuesday, April 29.

"Where we had to do our digging for the underground lines, we filled in with the sill material," said Teri MacBride, PPL regional community relations director. "What we are planning to do on April 28 and 29, is restore the macadam that we took out earlier."

To minimize traffic and pedestrian disruptions, PPL has arranged for traffic controls in cooperation with the city and will have a dedicated crew on site both days to help with traffic control. Downtown businesses can remain open.

"We are taking the time over the next work week to do outreach to the businesses on Independence Street to explain what we will be doing," MacBride said. "We will be doing the work and minimizing the impact on the downtown area."

The old lights had been in operation for about 50 years, and had malfunctioned in recent years, sometimes leaving complete sections of Independence Street complete dark.

Michels Power, of Neehah, Wisc., is primary electrical contractor and Pioneer Construction Co., a subcontractor, is doing the mechanical work. Fourty-four "cobra-style" aluminum posts and lamps were replaced with the same style, but with more efficient equipment, including high-pressure sodium lamps. Underground conduits have been dug up and new wiring installed.

The work began in February, and Sepich thanked the city, business owners and residents for their patience during the construction process.

"We've appreciated the constructive working relationship and cooperation from the city, residents and business owners since the project began in February as we safely installed this new public lighting system in the business district," she said.

The new lighting system will be owned and maintained by PPL. Shamokin pays a combined $11,200 in monthly tariffs, $134,400 annually, to cover maintenance and distribution charges for all 664 street lights in the city. The tariffs are funding the project and there is no additional cost to the city.

The replacement project was on the company's construction schedule in 2013, but was ultimately moved to this year after city officials explored the possibility of purchasing its own system from another vendor.

The project was turned over to the Shamokin Planning Commission for its members to explore the cost of decorative lighting and an energy efficient system such as LED. PPL offers limited decorative options and does not offer LED systems.

It was ultimately determined by city council that it was too costly.

The Shamokin project is part of ongoing investments by PPL Electric Utilities through its 29-county service area to improve service to customers.