Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Undergrounding utilities

This has been an issue in DC, in areas outside of the original "L"enfant City" where there is a ban on overhead wires.

While not perfect, generally the part of the city with undergrounded electrical infrastructure has more reliable service. Plus it looks better, which has been an issue in commercial districts such as Brookland.

In DC, PEPCO claims it costs about $22 million/mile to underground electricity service, although that figure is about 20 times higher than other studies from around the country.

Post-Hurricane/Tropical Storm Irene the issue of undergrounding utilities has come up again in Virginia, and the Richmond Times-Dispatch ("Move to underground power lines unlikely") provides a link to a 2005 study by the Virginia Corporation Commission that is pretty definitive.

The study states that the cost of undergrounding everything is exorbitant, and makes the point that while service is generally more reliable, the cost of maintaining underground infrastructure is 58% higher, plus it takes 5-7 hours longer per repair, compared to above-ground infrastructure.

It does point out that Dominion Power has a program where each year they focus on substantive improvement to the 10 most consistent power faults in their system, and the course of action for correction can include undergrounding.

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