Pepco pitches plan to bury D.C. electric lines

Pepco\'s plan would put power lines underground in five of the city\'s eight wards. The distribution lines are those responsible for D.C.\'s worst power outages. (WTOP File)

WASHINGTON – Pepco has a plan to reduce power outages by moving underground 60 power distribution lines inside the District.

If the D.C. Council and the Public Service Commission approve the project, Pepco Holdings Chairman Joseph Rigby says work could begin on the $1 billion construction project in early 2014.

The work would last roughly seven years.

It would bring about a “a 97 percent decrease in the frequency of power outages,” D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray says.

The plan calls for work to begin simultaneously in Northwest, Northeast and Southeast. The 60 lines to be buried underground stretch through Wards 3, 4, 5, 7 and 8 and would affect neighborhoods, including Chevy Chase, Cleveland Park, Fort Totten, Brookland, Benning Heights and Anacostia.

City officials say these distribution lines have been responsible for the city’s worst power outages.

D.C. Department of Transportation Director Terry Bellamy says there would be some digging on major arteries, but most of the work would be in the neighborhoods.

“We’ll be working a lot on … residential streets and minor arterials,” Bellamy says.

The project would not be anywhere near as disruptive as Metro tunnel and station construction.

“What we are talking about is about a 3-foot deep, 4-foot wide … trench for Pepco,” Bellamy says.

Manholes will be dug at key locations, a little deeper than the trenches.

Gray says to limit disruptions, efforts would be made to coordinate the work with the schedule of street repairs.

“If DDOT is going to be working on 16th Street, that presents the opportunity to do any undergrounding on 16th Street,” Gray says.

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