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Undergrounding Utility Lines


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With the current aftermath that is still crippling this city, is it time for Houston to begin undergrounding utility lines? Although costly, this would go far in preventing citywide blackouts like we've had and curing the unsightly nature of lines crisscrossing our city.

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With the current aftermath that is still crippling this city, is it time for Houston to begin undergrounding utility lines? Although costly, this would go far in preventing citywide blackouts like we've had and curing the unsightly nature of lines crisscrossing our city.

centerpoint is talking about beefing up some of their poles.....not sure they are ready to take the leap to underground lines yet.

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With the current aftermath that is still crippling this city, is it time for Houston to begin undergrounding utility lines? Although costly, this would go far in preventing citywide blackouts like we've had and curing the unsightly nature of lines crisscrossing our city.

The transmission system may need to be hardened in places, but it is way too expensive to justify the replacement and burial of infrastructure in most existing neighborhoods unless a major thoroughfare is already going to get torn up and utility poles are already going to be moved. Even the Uptown Management District, when it reconfigured its electrical infrastructure, only buried lines in a few places; for the most part they just moved them into less visible easements because it would've been too expensive to go underground. ...and they have a ton of resources at their disposal considering the land area that they oversee.

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The transmission system may need to be hardened in places, but it is way too expensive to justify the replacement and burial of infrastructure in most existing neighborhoods unless a major thoroughfare is already going to get torn up and utility poles are already going to be moved.

What about running them under the sidewalks? Less traffic disturbance, and it's where the telephone poles are now anyway. Just do a cut-and-cover operation. I'm specifically thinking of Montrose which needs new sidewalks anyway and is dense enough to justify burying the lines.

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The cost to do this would be significant, but the Chron's article today supports the fact that there is cost in everything...in the present case, reconstruction. The hundreds of millions that will be spent in repairs could've been better spent in undergrounding the lines in the beginning.

Ike could increase power bills for years to come

Houston customers may have to help cover electricity grid repairs

http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/front/6014950.html

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We have underground lines at the rear of lots here in Cinco Ranch. I never lost power, but lots of homes did just down the road less than a mile. (they are in Cinco Ranch as well) Most newer construction Centerpoint is burying lines,, or should I say developers are at there own cost in some cases.

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The power lines in my neighborhood run on a 10 foot easement along the back property line. I shudder to think how difficult it would be to bury those lines. Especially since there's a swer line back there as well. When the City replaced the sewer, there were trucks tearing up everything for months. It took 3 years to get all the fences back in place and the landscaping cleaned up. Burying the lines is not the panacea lots of folks think it is.

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I've been intermittently listening to the radio and centerpoint spokespeople keep repeating the mantra that it's too expensive, and that if the lines were buried, individuals would be on the hook for a few grand in electrician's fees to get the power from the new lines into their homes. What I want to see is some lind of meaningul CBA based on what it has cost to clean up this mess vs missed opportuniy to bury lines where appropriate. So far all I've seen quoted is numbers from other state's similar studies after snow and windstorms did the same type of damage. Maybe it is a risk we can't afford to mitigate. But I want to see reliable numbers and decide for myself.

I understand why it's not feasible to do it everywhere, but this storm reveals where CP has poorly maintained its poles, its rights of way, etc. These costs will get passed on to us in the form of higher rates. You can bet that right now Centerpoint has deployed their team of lobbyists to the PUC to get the rate increase cap lifted. We will pay more for repaired, yet unimproved infrastructure.

Sorry for the rant detour...... I don't recall most of it, but Peter Brown had a lengthy op-ed in the paper about a phased in approach to deal with the issue. (I guess to try and maintain some design cred he did use the term 'visual blight'. )

A good example of how these things play out: as Metro tears up Harrisburg for the Brown line, they will not be paying CP to replace the lines, underground. A great opportunity while the road is torn up, and it was never even on the table, according to the answers at the last Metro community meeting.

Edited by crunchtastic
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The power lines in my neighborhood run on a 10 foot easement along the back property line. I shudder to think how difficult it would be to bury those lines. Especially since there's a swer line back there as well. When the City replaced the sewer, there were trucks tearing up everything for months. It took 3 years to get all the fences back in place and the landscaping cleaned up. Burying the lines is not the panacea lots of folks think it is.

I think there's probably multiple ways of doing it, some that are not as invasive as others.

When we think "underground utility lines" the first thing we think of is tunnels big enough for people to walk through. But there are ways to do it in smaller trenches, too. I have an ex-girlfriend who paid to have a private company bury the line running up her very long driveway to her home. They used a kind of crawling machine that sliced open the sod, slipped a conduit underneath, and replaced the sod behind it as it crawled along. Most of what was left was a trail of excess dirt and a lump where the conduit now lay safely underground (she was told the lump would settle over time as it rained).

Now, this kind of thing won't work in every circumstance, but I think it illustrates that there may be a way of doing it that is less traumatic than replacing a sewer line.

In some cities fiber optic, telephone, cable, and other utilities run through the sewer lines attached to the top of the tunnel. I don't know if this is possible with power, too, but it's something to consider.

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I'm on record as a lover of overhead tangles of wires and listing utility poles, but after 9 days without electricity, let's bury these things. We can put up faux overhead lines for decoration.

FYI, Peter Brown (who I hear is going to run for mayor) uses the term 'visual blight.' Time to start you lettter writing campaing, meme.

Maybe if they decorated the faux lines with little chandelier drops. That would be cool. And sparkly too.

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What about running them under the sidewalks? Less traffic disturbance, and it's where the telephone poles are now anyway. Just do a cut-and-cover operation. I'm specifically thinking of Montrose which needs new sidewalks anyway and is dense enough to justify burying the lines.

Yeah, that may work in some places, assuming that the forces at play that destroyed the sidewalks won't also damage the new lines. I was thinking that Washington Ave. could be a good candidate since it really doesn't have too many growing trees right up along it. Also Kirby, given the reconstruction using tower oaks, and along the future light rail lines. But going into a neighborhood and burying all of the infrastructure is just prohibitively expensive.

The other part of the equation is working out who foots the bill.

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The cost to do this would be significant, but the Chron's article today supports the fact that there is cost in everything...in the present case, reconstruction. The hundreds of millions that will be spent in repairs could've been better spent in undergrounding the lines in the beginning.

What was done in the beginning is a sunk cost. Burying lines in a city that is already set up for overhead infrastructure is a heck of a lot more costly than burying them in the first place, and indeed land developers have recognized that they can often recover the cost of line burying utilities by way of higher lot prices.

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I've been intermittently listening to the radio and centerpoint spokespeople keep repeating the mantra that it's too expensive, and that if the lines were buried, individuals would be on the hook for a few grand in electrician's fees to get the power from the new lines into their homes. What I want to see is some lind of meaningul CBA based on what it has cost to clean up this mess vs missed opportuniy to bury lines where appropriate. So far all I've seen quoted is numbers from other state's similar studies after snow and windstorms did the same type of damage. Maybe it is a risk we can't afford to mitigate. But I want to see reliable numbers and decide for myself.

I understand why it's not feasible to do it everywhere, but this storm reveals where CP has poorly maintained its poles, its rights of way, etc. These costs will get passed on to us in the form of higher rates. You can bet that right now Centerpoint has deployed their team of lobbyists to the PUC to get the rate increase cap lifted. We will pay more for repaired, yet unimproved infrastructure.

Sorry for the rant detour...... I don't recall most of it, but Peter Brown had a lengthy op-ed in the paper about a phased in approach to deal with the issue. (I guess to try and maintain some design cred he did use the term 'visual blight'. )

A good example of how these things play out: as Metro tears up Harrisburg for the Brown line, they will not be paying CP to replace the lines, underground. A great opportunity while the road is torn up, and it was never even on the table, according to the answers at the last Metro community meeting.

A phased in approach makes perfect sense. Set it as a goal and implement it over ten years or whatever it takes. It is insane for a city to lose power for weeks in a storm like some third world slum. I mentioned this in an earlier topic, but I spoke about it with some transmission line engineers. It was their impression that buried lines worked out cheaper in dense areas over the long run because of the maintenance cost differential. In less dense areas they didn't think it would be the case.

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Fixing underground systems would take an even longer amount of time than above ground systems. Do you think most people like the idea of paying more for something and then waiting longer for it to be repaired? (American citizens are very impatient)

Now yes, if the entire area had underground power lines, the majority would not have lost power. But I am sure some areas would have been damaged and it would take probably a few months to fix. Do you really want to be without power for months rather than a week?

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The other part of the equation is working out who foots the bill.

Yeah, that is going to be tough. If I may hazard a proposition --

For existing utilities, the owner of the property being served pays, based on the number of linear feet being replaced.

For new utilities, the company laying the lines pays.

I don't know if this is fare or not. I'm sure there will be people here who can point out the flaws.

Fixing underground systems would take an even longer amount of time than above ground systems

You've said that before on HAIF, but have never been able to point to a study, a link, or any other evidence to back this up. Based on what I've been told by utility companies in the past, I'm not sure it's true. But if you have evidence, I'm willing to consider it.

However, citing repair costs is a red herring. A strawman, even. The major point of burying the utilities is to keep them from breaking so easily in the first place.

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Great links. I can't wait to dig deeper into them.

From the first one -- here's a bad Photochop showing before and after burial:

01before.jpg01after.jpg

Looks like the space needed is a lot smaller than for a sewer line, but still big trucks are needed:

cable2.jpg

Here's a link to a video about the project.

Apparently this has been going on since 1967. The city does about 30 miles a year. At that rate I wonder how long it would take to convert Houston.

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If this $3,500 to $16,000 per customer estimate is correct, it's completely economically infeasible across the city (um, that's the equivalent of a car for each household). I'm sure part of what makes it so insane is that if there's any way at all standing water can connect the underground line to ground above, it kills people. That requires serious redundant safety. That said, maybe it could get integrated into existing road/sidewalk projects in targeted areas - like what the Kirby district is doing, but we need to be resigned to the fact that there will be mass outages whenever a hurricane directly strikes Houston (once every 25 years?).

Edited by ToryGattis
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What about running them under the sidewalks? Less traffic disturbance, and it's where the telephone poles are now anyway. Just do a cut-and-cover operation. I'm specifically thinking of Montrose which needs new sidewalks anyway and is dense enough to justify burying the lines.

just depends how the hood is laid out. mine has the water main under the sidewalk.

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The more power a given line carries the more expensive it is to put underground and the more time consuming it is to repair. A good solution might be to bury residential lines where the loads aren't as great, and there are lots of nearby trees to cause outage issues. In commercial areas with high loads and much fewer trees, keep 'em above ground, and keep the major lines that feed entire neighborhoods above ground as well.

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If this $3,500 to $16,000 per customer estimate is correct, it's completely economically infeasible across the city (um, that's the equivalent of a car for each household).

Yes, it would not be possible all at once, but over a long period of time it should work. That may help explain why San Diego has been working on moving its power lines underground for over 40 years now. Another indication of this is what is stated in the video -- that timetables change based on a number of factors including funding.

I don't think anyone is suggesting the city spend a brazillion dollars and do it overnight. But a thoughtful, methodical transformation over a decade or more would seem to me manageable. In the San Diego conversion, it takes something 6-8 years from the time a neighborhood is selected until it is completed.

I'm sure part of what makes it so insane is that if there's any way at all standing water can connect the underground line to ground above, it kills people. That requires serious redundant safety. That said, maybe it could get integrated into existing road/sidewalk projects in targeted areas - like what the Kirby district is doing,

I don't recall anyone being electrocuted in downtown Houston during Ike or Allison (which was much worse in terms of flooding) and downtown Houston has underground utilities. If they can do it in downtown Houston and Tampa and Miami, certainly we can do it here, too.

we need to be resigned to the fact that there will be mass outages whenever a hurricane directly strikes Houston (once every 25 years?).

Pish posh. If we resigned ourselves to not do things because they are hard, then nothing would ever be done. Galveston wouldn't have rebuilt after 1900. Houston would still be plagued by malaria. There would be no need for Johnson Space Center. And there would be no domed stadium along the South Loop.

Where's your Texas spirit?

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San Diego can do it because they don't mind imposing a $10K cost on houses that average over $500K. San Diego also does not have a rain and flooding problem like we do.

Obviously downtown and the TMC did it and it worked fine (reliable and safe). I'm sure it was very expensive, but it makes sense for that kind of density, and the costs are affordable relative to capital costs invested there. Not true for suburban houses.

It's all about cost-benefit, and I don't think the numbers are there. If we're going to spend tens or hundreds of billions on something, there are far better candidates with much better paybacks. Education? Transportation?

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San Diego can do it because they don't mind imposing a $10K cost on houses that average over $500K.

Where did you find the numbers? I looked all through that web site and couldn't find anything except a portion of the FAQ saying that it was free as long as the homeowner buried the lines on his side of the property line, and another part that said that the city of San Diego sets aside $54 million each year for the project.

I couldn't find a reference to how much each home owner would have to pay. Can you post the link?

San Diego also does not have a rain and flooding problem like we do.

But Miami, Tampa, and many other cities with buried utilities do.

Obviously downtown and the TMC did it and it worked fine (reliable and safe). I'm sure it was very expensive, but it makes sense for that kind of density, and the costs are affordable relative to capital costs invested there. Not true for suburban houses.

I don't think we're talking about burying for the suburbs -- just the city. Sure, there are less dense portions of the city, and they should be done last, or not at all. But Montrose, Midtown, and the West Loop/Galleria area have plenty of density.

It's all about cost-benefit, and I don't think the numbers are there.

I haven't seen any numbers for Houston. The Edison Institute numbers cited a Virginia study saying that the cost-benefit ratio was 38%. But that was for burying all of the power lines in the state. And if you've ever driven I-64 across Virginia, you know it's mostly very rural. If Virginia can get 38% burying its rural lines and the suburbs of DC, then I would think that the benefit of burying inside the 610 Loop, or even inside the Beltway would be much higher.

If we're going to spend tens or hundreds of billions on something, there are far better candidates with much better paybacks. Education? Transportation?

With that kind of logic, then we shouldn't build anything but the very basics. Widen the Katy Freeway or build affordable housing for all the poor people in Southeast Texas? Finish the Sam Houston Tollway, or provide food for all the kittens in all the animal shelters for the next ten years? Fix the leaky water main on your street, or provide low income school lunches to the East End for an entire month? Rebuild Galveston, or send half the kids in HISD to college?

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What about running them under the sidewalks? Less traffic disturbance, and it's where the telephone poles are now anyway. Just do a cut-and-cover operation. I'm specifically thinking of Montrose which needs new sidewalks anyway and is dense enough to justify burying the lines.

Ha, ha. When I first moved to the area a few years ago, I thought of Houston as the "beautiful city of open ditches and missing or broken sidewalks!" Maybe if we had the money to build or repair sidewalks and real storm drains in all the older neighborhoods -- not just the pretty suburbs -- we could also put the power lines underground.

Seriously, I live in one of those "pretty suburbs." The new power lines on wooden poles behind my house must have been put up in just the last couple of years. If there was the will and the wherewithal to bury the power lines, that would be great, provided that we also budgeted the money to repair them after a flood. If not, maybe "hardening" the poles is a better compromise.

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Yeah, that is going to be tough. If I may hazard a proposition --

For existing utilities, the owner of the property being served pays, based on the number of linear feet being replaced.

For new utilities, the company laying the lines pays.

I don't know if this is fare or not. I'm sure there will be people here who can point out the flaws.

A lot of people wouldn't have several thousand dollars at the ready were CenterPoint to redo their street. Billing would be a problem. Also, it would seem to have a disproportionate impact on people with corner lots, who may face three to four times as high a fee to have their frontage taken care of. Also, what happens when there are poles on one side of the street and not the other? There are a lot of issues arising from inequity that would have to be resolved.

CenterPoint currently does not pay for most new lines in subdivisions. The developer pays, passes it along to the builder, and the builder passes it along to the consumer. I have heard that the marginal cost increase per lot averages only about $500 when lines are buried in a new development as opposed to using overhead lines. CenterPoint does pay for new transmission lines, but those costs are recouped by making an arrangement with the State to raise its rates (CP has to have the State's permission, and the State pretty much has to give it to ensure that CP has a profit such that it is worth it to them to bother being in business). The issue with the latter is that new transmission lines in Katy get paid for by established Inner Loopers if Katy doesn't grow as quickly as projected.

I would suggest that special taxing districts be set up to finance utilty burial where a supermajority of property owners, weighted by HCAD valuation, vote to do the project. Then a muni-bond gets issued to pay for it, paid off by property taxes over a period of, say, 5 years. Such a district could encompass a single neighborhood, several neighborhoods at once, or run exclusively along commercial corridors (like the Almeda/OST TIRZ does).

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The real solution is to leave the power lines where they are and cover the city with a giant roof. Then we could strap the whole thing down to protect us from hurricanes and cyclones, air condition it, keep the mosquitoes out, and pave the top so there would be plenty of room for cars to get around.

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Apparently this has been going on since 1967. The city does about 30 miles a year.
...and another part that said that the city of San Diego sets aside $54 million each year for the project.

Holy crap.

30 miles per year = 5,280 feet * 30 miles per year = 158,400 feet per year.

$54,000,000 per year / 158,400 feet per year = $340.91 per foot per year

The typical width of an urban single-family lot is about 50 feet; depth is typically 100 feet.

50 feet * $340.91 per foot = $17,045 per single-family home; $51,135 for a corner lot!

------------------------------------------

I was honestly very suspicious of Tory's figures, too, but then I'm used to seeing figures as they pertain to development from scratch. Even on the assumption that California's costs are twice ours, I can't imagine that it makes sense to demolish and replace the existing (usually) functional infrastructure just to make it look nicer at such enormous costs.

Edited by TheNiche
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Holy crap.

30 miles per year = 5,280 feet * 30 miles per year = 158,400 feet per year.

$54,000,000 per year / 158,400 feet per year = $340.91 per foot per year

The typical width of an urban single-family lot is about 50 feet; depth is typically 100 feet.

50 feet * $340.91 per foot = $17,045 per single-family home; $51,135 for a corner lot!

I guess since I posted those numbers I should have done the math myself. Duh! Thanks for pointing that out.

Here's something to consider, though -- the $17k isn't a one-time bill. The SD project is a 70-year project (part of the web site says it plans to wrap up in about 25 years and it started in the mid-60's). So the annual cost is:

$17,045/70=$243 per year for a single-family home, or $51,135/70=$731 per year for a corner lot.

Now I'm not suggesting that homeowners have an extra $200-700 lying around. But from all current evidence, this is paid for by the city and not by each individual homeowner as their homes are passed.

How many taxable buildings would a medium-sized city like SD have? 500,000? I really have no idea. But that would work out to $54million/500,000/70 years=$1.54 per year. That's a lot cheaper than buying a generator.

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A lot of people wouldn't have several thousand dollars at the ready were CenterPoint to redo their street. Billing would be a problem. Also, it would seem to have a disproportionate impact on people with corner lots, who may face three to four times as high a fee to have their frontage taken care of. Also, what happens when there are poles on one side of the street and not the other? There are a lot of issues arising from inequity that would have to be resolved.

The corner lot thing is a good point. And what about tax-exempt buildings? They'd probably want an exemption.

I would suggest that special taxing districts be set up to finance utilty burial where a supermajority of property owners, weighted by HCAD valuation, vote to do the project. Then a muni-bond gets issued to pay for it, paid off by property taxes over a period of, say, 5 years. Such a district could encompass a single neighborhood, several neighborhoods at once, or run exclusively along commercial corridors (like the Almeda/OST TIRZ does).

I think that might run into problems with the weighting. Equal protection/"one man=one vote" kind of thing. I'm sure there's a lawyer out there with a better grasp of it than I who can explain if it would be legally possible to do it that way.

I think the idea of having the neighborhood vote for it is a good idea. There's another thread on HAIF where someone from a particular neighborhood is advocating local action to get the lines buried. I think that's great, and it's probably happened in the past. Does anyone have any historic photos of River Oaks before its power lines were buried?

I'm OK with the municipal bond to pay for it, but I'm not sure about the time frame. Usually even small projects in the $30-$50 million range have a payback of 20-30 years. But then it's been a long time since I paid much attention to municipal bonds; things may have changed in the last ten years or so.

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I guess since I posted those numbers I should have done the math myself. Duh! Thanks for pointing that out.

Here's something to consider, though -- the $17k isn't a one-time bill. The SD project is a 70-year project (part of the web site says it plans to wrap up in about 25 years and it started in the mid-60's). So the annual cost is:

$17,045/70=$243 per year for a single-family home, or $51,135/70=$731 per year for a corner lot.

Now I'm not suggesting that homeowners have an extra $200-700 lying around. But from all current evidence, this is paid for by the city and not by each individual homeowner as their homes are passed.

How many taxable buildings would a medium-sized city like SD have? 500,000? I really have no idea. But that would work out to $54million/500,000/70 years=$1.54 per year. That's a lot cheaper than buying a generator.

If you can think of the $17,045 cost to bury lines in front of a house as a one-time expense with no recurring expenses for maintenance, and we consider the opportunity cost of public funds (I won't even entertain the concept of payback period as a meaningful analytical tool) to be only 3%, then the average homeowner would have to accure a benefit of at least $585.27 per year for the duration of 70 years (or have that amount of benefit fully capitalized into the price of a home at the time of sale) in order to justify the burial of the overhead lines. If you use a more realistic 5% discount rate, the average annual benefit to the homeowner has to be $881.21.

I'm OK with the municipal bond to pay for it, but I'm not sure about the time frame. Usually even small projects in the $30-$50 million range have a payback of 20-30 years. But then it's been a long time since I paid much attention to municipal bonds; things may have changed in the last ten years or so.

I'm not OK with it anymore, either. I used the 5-year figure when I thought we were talking about $2,500-$3,000 per house, or something apparently crazy like that.

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The other part of the equation is working out who foots the bill.

There is no question at all about who foots the bill. The same people who foot the bill for repairing the overhead wire system every time we have storm. The ratepayers.

Installing underground service can be done without trenching at all. It can now be done with horizontal drilling technology. Quite amazing, really and I think a result of petroleum industry creativity. The electric utility in Tulsa, Oklahoma is going through a program of burying all lines in the city. They got a surcharge added to their electric bills to pay the cost (and as noted above, we are already paying the repeated costs of repairing the overhead lines). Centerpoint and Houston should take a very serious look at the same sort of thing.

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I think TheNiche's numbers say it all. I didn't mean to imply San Diego charged homeowners directly. But the bottom line is the cost, and the money comes from somewhere - either ratepayers or taxpayers. I have no problem with individual neighborhoods or developments opting in and paying for it themselves, though. It should be a service Centerpoint offers at cost.

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There is no question at all about who foots the bill. The same people who foot the bill for repairing the overhead wire system every time we have storm. The ratepayers.

Installing underground service can be done without trenching at all. It can now be done with horizontal drilling technology. Quite amazing, really and I think a result of petroleum industry creativity. The electric utility in Tulsa, Oklahoma is going through a program of burying all lines in the city. They got a surcharge added to their electric bills to pay the cost (and as noted above, we are already paying the repeated costs of repairing the overhead lines). Centerpoint and Houston should take a very serious look at the same sort of thing.

Not to be completely jerky, but if Tulsa can do it surely Houston can. Tulsa's density is 2,100/square mile, compared with Houston's 3,800/square mile.

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Not to be completely jerky, but if Tulsa can do it surely Houston can. Tulsa's density is 2,100/square mile, compared with Houston's 3,800/square mile.

Its not a matter of whether we can. It is a matter of whether we want to. As for Tulsa...show me the money.

It should be a service Centerpoint offers at cost.

It already is, more or less.

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If this $3,500 to $16,000 per customer estimate is correct, it's completely economically infeasible across the city (um, that's the equivalent of a car for each household). I'm sure part of what makes it so insane is that if there's any way at all standing water can connect the underground line to ground above, it kills people. That requires serious redundant safety. That said, maybe it could get integrated into existing road/sidewalk projects in targeted areas - like what the Kirby district is doing, but we need to be resigned to the fact that there will be mass outages whenever a hurricane directly strikes Houston (once every 25 years?).

The fact that virtually every subdivision built in the last 30 years has all underground utilities suggests to me that this is not quite the human catastrophe in waiting that your italics predicts. In fact, I'd wager that far more people die yearly from above ground electrical utilities than buried ones. Then again, maybe I was just lucky that the transformer in my parents' backyard never reached out and grabbed me all those years I played around it.

Clearly, retrofitting above ground utilities to underground is expensive, but just as clearly, they are not unsafe. But, I bet it cost less than the trillion dollars Paulson wants to spend on bad mortgages. :rolleyes:

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The fact that virtually every subdivision built in the last 30 years has all underground utilities suggests to me that this is not quite the human catastrophe in waiting that your italics predicts. In fact, I'd wager that far more people die yearly from above ground electrical utilities than buried ones. Then again, maybe I was just lucky that the transformer in my parents' backyard never reached out and grabbed me all those years I played around it.

Clearly, retrofitting above ground utilities to underground is expensive, but just as clearly, they are not unsafe. But, I bet it cost less than the trillion dollars Paulson wants to spend on bad mortgages. :rolleyes:

Huh? I live in Shadow Creek Ranch, a humongous brand-new "master-planned community," and I have power-poles in my backyard! New subdivisions are not getting underground utilities, unless someone is paying extra for them.

FWIW, there are buried lines for AT&T and Comcast. These are about an inch below the back yard surface. "Underground" for these is sort of aesthetic, but it you ever plant a garden you find them (and break them) pretty quickly.

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If this $3,500 to $16,000 per customer estimate is correct, it's completely economically infeasible across the city (um, that's the equivalent of a car for each household). I'm sure part of what makes it so insane is that if there's any way at all standing water can connect the underground line to ground above, it kills people. That requires serious redundant safety. That said, maybe it could get integrated into existing road/sidewalk projects in targeted areas - like what the Kirby district is doing, but we need to be resigned to the fact that there will be mass outages whenever a hurricane directly strikes Houston (once every 25 years?).

How many MMP's per mile is that Tory? Cmon... enough with the out of thin air estimates.

I grew up in rural Pennsylvania, where houses were seperated by a mile or more and we all had underground power lines from day one.

Yes, there is a cost associated with putting the lines in the ground. There is also a cost associated with not having power for 2-3 weeks when a major storm blows through town. One of these costs is tangible, one is not. We could argue all day long what the best answer is.

Spread the cost over a large amount of time and it will be manageable. Dont bury all the lines at once, do it as streets and sidewalks are being torn up for other reasons. Require new construction to bury the lines in their immediate area... etc.

If rural PA, where the average salary is still less than 20k/year can do it, we can too.

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If rural PA, where the average salary is still less than 20k/year can do it, we can too.

Rural PA is rural. Central Houston is urban.

This goes back to what I was saying earlier. The cost differential for burying lines in new development of raw land doesn't really break the bank. Retrofitting in an urban environment is a whole other animal...especially when you already have a working system in place and you aren't looking at the benefits of burial as weighed against a marginally higher cost, but as the total cost.

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Rural PA is rural. Central Houston is urban.

This goes back to what I was saying earlier. The cost differential for burying lines in new development of raw land doesn't really break the bank. Retrofitting in an urban environment is a whole other animal...especially when you already have a working system in place and you aren't looking at the benefits of burial as weighed against a marginally higher cost, but as the total cost.

Yes, there will be a cost. I'm not ready to accept any out of thin air estimates for this cost. I also never said that this should only be done in urban areas. If your argument that burying lines in rural areas is cheaper, maybe we do that first. I have plenty of co-workers that live in rural settings that are still without power today.

However, if you are already tearing up a street, such as the Kirby project going on right now, we need to understand the added cost of also putting the power lines underground at the same time. Who cares if it takes 50 years?

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You've said that before on HAIF, but have never been able to point to a study, a link, or any other evidence to back this up. Based on what I've been told by utility companies in the past, I'm not sure it's true. But if you have evidence, I'm willing to consider it.

Damn it! I had a nice post all typed out and I received the blue screen of death!

In my eyes (which aren't always clear, lol) it takes less time to set power line poles (be it wooden or steel) and add transformers/lines/etc. than it would to have to dig up streets/sidewalks/etc. repair the lines then lay the streets/sidewalks/etc. down again. (do you know if flooding effects underground power lines?)

I did see a report on KTRK13News (I will try to find it) about above ground vs. below ground with a local energy executive/engineer.

Don't get me wrong I am not against underground power lines (hell I live downtown and didn't loose power for that very reason), but if there would be some type of backup incase they do go down, it would be nice (don't ask me what that would be).

Not to mention it does make a city look much aesthetically pleasing (but since when has Houston cared about how it looks? Does anyone remember all the plants and shrubbery that were planted along the highways a few months before the superbowl and how awful it looked because no one mowed around them -- and how awful some of it still looks, that

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Yes, there will be a cost. I'm not ready to accept any out of thin air estimates for this cost. I also never said that this should only be done in urban areas. If your argument that burying lines in rural areas is cheaper, maybe we do that first. I have plenty of co-workers that live in rural settings that are still without power today.

However, if you are already tearing up a street, such as the Kirby project going on right now, we need to understand the added cost of also putting the power lines underground at the same time. Who cares if it takes 50 years?

I can't verify, but I heard that lines were already buried along the Kirby project and they never lost power. If this is true, then (IMO) this is the direction we should take.

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I can't verify, but I heard that lines were already buried along the Kirby project and they never lost power. If this is true, then (IMO) this is the direction we should take.

I have no idea if the lines along the Kirby project are in the ground or not.

However, I can verify that the homes surrounding the sub-station at LaBranch and McGowen only lost power for roughly 3 hours during the storm. All of these homes are served by underground power lines. Homes 1-2 blocks beyond lost power for roughly 1 week since their lines go above ground albeit just a short distance.

My workplace in Cypress never lost power, it too has underground lines from the sub-station. Meanwhile, traffic lights and stores just outside of the property are still without power today.

I am already convinced that underground lines is the answer.

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Huh? I live in Shadow Creek Ranch, a humongous brand-new "master-planned community," and I have power-poles in my backyard! New subdivisions are not getting underground utilities, unless someone is paying extra for them.

I am in Southern Trails, a new MPC just south of Shadow Creek Ranch. We do have underground utilities. We only lost power for 21 hours during Ike.

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Underground utilities aren't a magic bullet. My husband works for a tv station and he says there are still neighborhoods with underground utilites without power. When I lived in Katy, with underground utilities, my power and cable when out regulary for long periods of time, even without a storm.

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