WASHINGTON – A state task force looking for better ways to bury electrical lines needn’t travel far for a working example.
Despite the high costs involved, Annapolis has found a workable way to move its lines underground: The city has systematically buried its power lines for more than 10 years, said Emory C. Harrison, director of central services for the city.
Harrison said it is not cost-effective for the city to concentrate solely on power lines, so Annapolis has a larger project to move all utilities underground and resurface roads downtown.
Harrison, a member of the Maryland task force looking for ways to cut the cost of moving overhead lines underground, recently took the panel on a tour of Annapolis to show how the city hides some of its utilities. In 20-foot-deep trenches, workers stack water and sewer, gas, power, cable and telephone lines.
The project costs about $1,500 to $2,000 for each foot of roadway, Harrison said. That totals about $7.9 million to $10.6 million a mile, which includes the cost of resurfacing the road.
The city pays for the project through its operating budget and bonds, Harrison said, but it receives significant grants from the General Assembly and State Highway Administration. Without state help, the project “would be considerably more difficult,” he said.
So far, Annapolis has buried lines on State Circle, Main Street and West Street, a city spokeswoman said.
Harrison added that while the project has inconvenienced about 150 businesses over the past 10 years, “99.9 percent” of them have been supportive. Some city businesses even threw a party for the contractors and workers who buried utilities along Main Street in 1995, he said.
“We try to minimize disruption to people’s lives,” Harrison said. “We go to great lengths to work with our merchants.”
Harrison said he would not be surprised if the governor and the General Assembly move to extend the task force’s work.
“I think there’s so much more that folks want the power companies and the government to look at,” he said.