SF Supervisors Seek Fed Money for Wire Project

San Francisco supervisors today asked for federal assistance to continue a program to underground all of the city’s utility wires

Bay City News
January 13, 2009
SAN FRANCISCO — San Francisco supervisors today asked for federal assistance to continue a program to underground all of the city’s utility wires.

The Board of Supervisors approved a resolution, authored by Supervisor Bevan Dufty, seeking funds from President-elect Barack Obama’s economic stimulus package to renew the program, approved in 1996 but which has been halted for lack of funding.

About 520 of the city’s 990 miles of utility wires are underground, according to the city.

Dufty said today he wanted to call attention to the discontinued program, arguing undergrounding the remaining 470 miles of overhead electrical wires in San Francisco would create infrastructure jobs and improve seismic and storm safety for the city’s electrical grid. It would also allow for neighborhood beautification, replacing visible overhead wires with trees, he said.

According to Dufty’s office, utility undergrounding costs the city nearly $4 million each mile, an estimate that could cost the city more than $1.8 billion to complete the program.

Dufty said the program currently has no financing mechanism for approximately the next decade, but argued it could be combined — possibly at “a minimal cost,” he said — with an ongoing gas main replacement program being undertaken by Pacific Gas and Electric Co.

That possibility is currently being explored, he said.

The board’s non-binding resolution, approved unanimously today, urges Mayor Gavin Newsom and the city’s Public Utilities Commission to ask for funding from the Obama administration to restart the program.

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