Wednesday, October 27, 2010

There is no Santa Claus

There is no Santa Claus and there will be no underground PEPCO wires on the Pennsylvania Ave SE Great Streets. Now that we got inconvenient truth out of the way, on to the recap of tonight's Ward 7 Town Hall Meeting. Miss V arrived late because my doctor's appointment in Rockville ran late. When I arrived there was about 20 people in attendance. Mike Maxwell, VP of Asset Management for PEPCO, gave a great presentation about aboveground versus underground. He's going to provide the presentation to attendees, so as soon as it hits my inbox, I will be sure to share with you all.

The highlights from his presentation were:
  • Aboveground lines can have a useful life as long as 80 years. Most underground lines have a useful life around 30 years, with some as short as 15 years.
  • Because of the overhead wire ban the original city has underground wires. Georgetown has underground wires and apparently they have a lot of problems with reliability. Despite all of this all new development in DC; and Montgomery and Prince George's Counties in Maryland have to place the wires underground.
  • Underground is less susceptible to damage due to wind, trees, ice or squirrels.
  • The cost to relocation aboveground to underground is expensive. The $3.5 million/mile figure that is tossed around is only for the primary lines. There is an additional cost for the secondary lines.
  • The cost to property owners (approximately $2200 residential and $16,000 commercial). This assumes the electrical panel in the home is up to code. If it isn't then the panel has to be up to code before PEPCO will underground.
  • To underground in a community, every homeowner would have to agree to pay the fee. For example, if there are 100 homes on the block and only 99 agree, PEPCO will not move forward.
  • Repair time is 1-2 hours for aboveground and about 8-9 hours underground
  • Ward 7 has the 2nd most dense tree canopy. Ward 3 has the densest.
With regards to Pennsylvania Ave Great Street Project, Luan Tran from DDOT stated the following:
  • The estimate for 1.8 miles was about $20 million; however estimates were never prepared specific to the Pennsylvania Ave Great Streets Project. They City did ask for estimates to underground at the commercial areas and that was about $1 million for each.
  • Great Street project was originally only local money ($8-10 million).
The Public Service Commission gave a presentation about the study on reliability of aboveground versus underground. Completely unrelated to the power lines, I was shocked to learn DC gets its power from West Virginia and Maryland. No power is generated locally other than when the power plant in Ward 7 was used on hot days to supplement the transmission grid. I know that the Mirant Plant in Alexandria, VA provides power to DC. I asked a question about the adaptive reuse of the two power plants in DC to produce renewable energy. I think since my question was off topic, it went over people's heads.

All-in-all, it was a good meeting.


  1. Thanks for the recap! The meeting was very informative. This meeting was by far one of the better community meetings I've attended in a long time. One of the lessons learned is that at the planning stages of the Penn Ave Great Streets projects, DDOT should have listened to the community's request to have the lines placed underground, obtained from Pepco a complete cost estimate to have the lines placed underground, and shared the estimate with the community. The community could have than decided, after seeing the cost and all that was involved, if undergrounding the wires was worth pursuing (not DDOT or Pepco) and how to pay for it (e.g., community grants, payment plans).

  2. Thanks for sharing, Miss V. As I had to work last night, I missed the meeting, so I'm glad to see the recap. But as I am no engineer, I may follow up with you offline to explain some things in layman's terms!

  3. Thanks V!

    "DDOT should have listened to the community's request to have the lines placed underground, obtained from Pepco a complete cost estimate to have the lines placed underground, and shared the estimate with the community" ~~Annonymous

    This was provided in other Great Streets meetings east of the river. What exactly was the "community's request" at the PA Ave Great Street meeting?

  4. @Ronnie... At the previous PA Ave Great Streets meeting we received multiple cost estimates for undergrounding the lines and then to run the line from the main line to people's properties. I can't speak for the meetings during the planning process, but the approved plan recommends undergrounding the wires.