By Dave Schwab
If you’re wondering how utilities undergrounding is going in Council District 1, which includes much of La Jolla, 14 of the 47 block projects to be constructed between 2004 and 2035 are in the works or have been completed.
Recently finished were Project Block 1F: La Jolla in the Beach-Barber Tract from Neptune Place to La Jolla Boulevard including Vista Del Mar, Monte Vista and Olivetas Avenues, as well as Tyrian Street; and Project Block 1R: University City, which was “christened” recently in a pole removal ceremony attended by First District Councilwoman Sherri Lightner.
San Diego associate traffic engineer Labib Qasem said there are two kinds of utility undergrounding projects — conventional block jobs and arterials, along roadways.
Utilities are being undergrounded for other than visual or aesthetic reasons.
“It’s a safety thing,” Qasem said. “You don’t want these poles to be falling down undoing electrical (service) and communications.”
Through the undergrounding program the city is replacing about 30 to 35 miles of overhead utility lines at an estimated cost of $50 million annually.
Undergrounding has been ongoing since 1970. But in 2003, when the California Public Utilities Commission approved placing an undergrounding surcharge on San Diego residents’ electricity bills, the city has escalated its undergrounding efforts.
Utilities undergrounding involves four phases.
1) City crews create a trench and install round plastic conduit below the surface of the roadway.
2) Cabling, where technicians place new utility lines within the new conduits. The new lines are then energized and brought into service.
3) Cut-overs. Once a new underground system is in place and energized, and all properties have been prepared to receive underground service, all properties are switched over from the overhead lines to the new underground systems, a process typically taking a month or two.
4) Pole removal. After 100 percent of overhead systems have been de-energized and removed and all power has been switched over to the new underground system, the poles come down. There’s also some finishing touches work involved putting in new streetlights, resurfacing roads, etc.