Electrifying Issue In Road Project

Tuesday, February 26th 2008, 6:30 pm
By: News On 6

There's a new wrinkle in a road widening project. The issue is whether the utility lines that will be moved, should be moved underground. The News On 6's Emory Bryan reports PSO is only burying lines in neighborhoods where there are lots of trees, where the residents are agreeable to the work. On Tuesday they were asked to consider burying larger lines, but the cost is staggering.

This is another front in the battle over whether power lines should be above or below ground. Transmission and distribution lines serve businesses and homes on 51st Street between Harvard and Lewis. They'll be moved during the widening of I-44, but as of now they'll move but remain above ground.

"They should seize this opportunity and bury them," said Building Owner Terri Heritage.

Terri Heritage owns a building on the south side of 51st Street. She wants to the lines buried to keep PSO from moving them even closer to her building.

"My concern right now is these huge electric lines and they're awfully close right now. They're going to come in very close to my building," said Heritage.

The situation prompted a discussion by the city council about whether PSO should be required to bury lines during big street projects.

"Those main arterial circuits, there is no program in place right now at all to start placing those underground," said Steve Penrose with AEP PSO.

PSO figures it would cost $18 million to bury this one mile of power lines. The power company says the money would be better spent burying lines in neighborhoods, as it's done in some places, because tree limbs cause most of the problems and the big lines are not usually affected. The city council wants more lines put underground, but doesn't want to have to pay for it.

"If we paid to bury the power lines, the long range effect of that would be less projects, street widening, and that's important right now, but I think, I want to put the burden on AEP PSO," said Bill Christiansen with the Tulsa City Council.

The cost of installing power lines below ground in new areas is about the same as above ground, but moving existing lines underground can costs 20 times as much. The council suggested PSO ask the state to pay at least some of the cost of burying the lines along 51st street and should ask for more rate increases to speed up burying lines in neighborhoods.