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Power lines to go underground

Scenes like this could be visions of the past in the District of Columbia.
Scenes like this could be visions of the past in the District of Columbia.
NBCWashington

Get ready for more infrastructural improvements to the District of Columbia.

On Monday Washington, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray signed a bill to put place primary power lines underground as an added measure to prevent power outages during extreme weather. This is a major infrastructural project according to many government officials and residents.

Talks about establishing underlined power lines resurfaced after a series of storms in 2012 came almost without warning. Mayor Gray soon after established the DC Power Line Undergrounding Task Force and in a letter to Phil Mendelson, Chairman of the Council of the District of Columbia, Mayor Gray said in part:

The Task Force determined that the undergrounding of the primary mainline and lateral wires (high voltage circuits) is the most prudent technical approach for the District, given the vulnerability of these circuits.

Soon after that the Electric Company Infrastructure Improvement Financing Act of 2013 was born. The Task Force says that they looked at all options in preventing future power outages. The 60 most vulnerable distribution lines in the city will be placed under ground first

Agnes Powell, a Washington, D.C. resident, is concerned about the high price tag.

"I am all for burying the powerlines underground," she said, "but I do have concerns about how the program is going to pay for itself."

The project is expected to cost an estimated $1 billion, through this public-private infrastructural effort could take as long as a decade to complete.

For residential ratepayers, the initial increase will be about $1.50 per month that will go up to $3.25 per month by the seventh year; while commercial customers will pay 5 to 9.25 percent.

Pepco Holdings Inc. Chairman, President and CEO Joseph Rigby, City Administrator Allen Lew, D.C. Public Service Commissioner Betty Ann Kane, D.C. People’s Counsel Sandra Mattavous-Frye and other members of the Task Force were on hand for Monday's signing.

Rigby remarked, "It will provide a level of resiliency in the system that could handle -- not handle entirely -- but greatly offset the impact of a Derecho or the kind of microbursts that we had in the summer of 2010."