Burying of power lines takes a step forward

Vulnerable power lines could soon go underground. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — It’s going down — pending approval.

The plan to bury the District’s most vulnerable power lines took an important step forward this week.

Pepco and the District Department of Transportation have filed all the information required for the review and approval process concerning the first three years of the project.

The application for approval sets the stage for work to begin next year.

“The plan that was filed would have the first construction start in the spring of 2015,” says Betty Ann Kane, chair of the Public Service Commission. “The overall plan to do all of the $1 billion of work will probably take seven to 10 years.”

Regulators will determine whether the plan meets criteria in the law and calculate the surcharge to pay for it.

In March of this year, Mayor Vincent Gray signed the legislation, designed to improve reliability during severe weather. The legislation targeted the 60 most vulnerable overhead distribution lines.

Five primary feeders, which are main power lines, would be the focus of undergrounding in the first year of work. Over the first three years of the project, the plan proposes the relocation of 21 electric distribution feeders and laterals.

Those lines cover Wards 3, 4, 5, 7 and 8. Regulators will hold public hearings in each of the affected communities, the first of which is scheduled for July 21.

The undergrounding of troubled power lines will cost residential customers a couple extra dollars per month on average, although specifics are not yet certain.

To accomplish the work, DDOT will put in underground conduits and equipment vaults, which will require some traffic disruption. The plan calls for that to coincide with scheduled street repavement projects.

After that work has been completed, Pepco can move forward with burying the vulnerable lines.

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