Yesterday’s post on the big new electrical poles on Greens Farms Road sparked a discussion about above-ground versus underground wires. Why, commenters wondered, doesn’t Westport bury its utility lines?
An alert “06880” reader with experience in the matter writes:
Undergrounding of existing overhead facilities is the most expensive option.
You need to build the entire system underground in advance, keeping the overhead in service (so the lights don’t go out), then convert 100% of all existing homes, buildings, traffic signals, street lights, etc., from an overhead service to having an underground service.
Then when all are supplied off the new (and expensive) underground systems, you return to remove all poles, overhead wires and transformers. And CL&P only handles the electric conversion. AT&T and cable TV providers also need to convert 100% of their customers to underground supply too, before removal of overhead equipment is accomplished.
At least we don’t look like New York City in 1887.
Plus, the costs of the new equipment as well as undepreciated life of the removed old overhead equipment, is paid for in advance by the town, neighborhood association or business council/chamber of commerce making the request to underground the area or town. They also provide or pay for all trenching, pavement repair and restoration required.
So, with this in mind, it’s no wonder that very few if any areas are converted to underground supply from existing overhead supply.
Examples of areas converted in the past include the very end of Hillspoint Road, from the corner where Compo Road and Soundview intersect to a point just past the third house facing the Sound from Compo (this was paid in full by 2 neighbors back in the early ’90s); a portion of the Longshore Park system, at the recently rebuilt halfway house and 10th hole tee, and another short piece where the lines run into Longshore marina and the swimming pool/tennis court area, done in 2001 as part of the rebuild of the refreshment stand and locker room building, also paid by the town/Park and Rec.
Another example was part of the South End in Stamford, where BLT is developing a massive urban renewal (and paying all the costs associated with this conversion).
I believe the portion of CL&P’s system that is now underground has grown to over 15%. Each year, a little more is added.