Sharring experiences in urban infrastructure delivery.

Overhead Utilities

By: Tom Davis Category: Removing Overhead Utilities

After Hurricane Ike slammed through Houston and most with underground electrical services had power after or it was soon restored. Many are talking about the need to put power lines underground. That would be great if we are ready for our base electrical rate to go up astronomically. This post presents the major issues that hinder the burial of overhead cables–electrical and communication.

Cost to put the electrical primary and secondary power lines underground was costing up to $500/LF for an average service in a light commercial/residential area. Note the qualifiers in that statement–only electrical lines–and not the transmission lines that deliver power to the systems that serve the primary lines.

Also on most poles are communications cables–hard wire and fiber optics. You will also have to pay to put them in the ground before the poles can be removed. Telecoms have the right to be on the poles byway of the Telecommunication Act of 1994 and once there CenterPoint nor AT&T–who own the vast majority of the poles–can remove the pole unless they move off. Moving off will only happen if they have somewhere to move and that will be underground if someone else foots the bill.ugrndconduit1.jpg

Once you are ready for the challenge of the electrical and telecom companies you must look at the changes to private businesses and residences served as there will be costs there someone must bear. For example, the overhead electrical service now enters at the “weather-head” above the roof line and runs down a conduit to the meter box. In addition each of the transformers on the service line must be replaced by a ground-mounted transformer that is usually on private property after an easement is granted by the property owner to CenterPoint. When the supply comes in underground often it is not as easy as it seems to feed that meter box from below.

Note that one issue in older streets is that the available area underground is often limited as the photo on the post displays. Cost sores to thread the new duct bank through the maze of abandoned and live water and sewer lines and communication cables. Admittedly the photo is in downtown but in other streets there are similar situations.

Overhead removal is an ongoing project of the Houston Downtown Management District.

More to come soon in future articles.


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