Undergrounding: Frequently Asked Questions
What is the utility underground district program?
The city of Alameda’s underground utility program was established in 1984 to place overhead main lines and service lines – including telephone, electric, cable television and other telecommunications – underground in a trench. The purpose is not only to beautify the streets but also to improve and enhance the city’s electric system.
What are the benefits of undergrounding?
- Improves the visual look of Alameda
- Enhances public safety by removing utility poles and undergrounding utility lines
- Reduces power outages caused by vehicular traffic accidents
- Reduces costs of tree trimming and utility pole replacement
- Reduces power outages caused by weather, animals, metallic balloons and kites Improves residential and commercial property values
- Improves electric system reliability and operational flexibility with installation of new equipment
Are there any drawbacks of undergrounding?
- Higher costs to install or repair underground lines
- Longer times to repair underground lines
- Increased chance of damage due to dig-ins by those who do not follow proper procedures to identify the location of underground facilities before excavating.
What other companies are involved with the undergrounding program?
AT&T, Comcast and any other utility companies that use the power poles will partner with AMP in locating or relocating existing underground utility pipes.
Will there be a different trench for each utility?
No. The impacted utilities will use and shore a single trench.
Will the streets in my neighborhood have trench marks as a result of the trenching work?
No. Streets will be re-surfaced or slurry sealed.
I received a letter about a town hall meeting regarding a proposal to move utility lines underground in my neighborhood. What do I need to do?
You are invited to attend the meeting and to provide feedback on the proposed undergrounding project. While we encourage your participation, there is no requirement for you to join the meeting.
If my street is selected, how long does it take to underground the utility lines?
After approval from the Alameda City Council, the design phase will take one year to 18 months. Typically, it takes 18 to 24 months to complete an undergrounding project.
Is there any cost to property owners for the undergrounding of utility lines?
The property owner won’t be charged if the service lateral does not exceed 100 feet. In addition, the property owner must provide utility companies access to their property by signing an agreement. If these conditions aren’t met, the property owner must pay for the costs to move the lines underground from the street to their house or business starting at the property line.
What is the cost for moving all utility lines underground in Alameda?
About half of the city’s power lines are currently underground, with 93 miles of overhead power lines remaining. Undergrounding can cost as much as $5.3 million per mile. When you consider the costs, you can see why Alameda is moving lines underground on a gradual basis instead of all at once.
Can customers pay out of their own pockets to get their utility lines moved underground?
Yes,but the cost of moving overhead utilities underground can be very high. Customers who are not within an underground utility district may request undergrounding of their overhead utilities but must bear the expense of the conversion. For example, a rough cost estimate to convert the electrical overhead facilities to underground facilities for one block (approx. 600 ft.) could be $600,000.
This cost does not include converting other utility providers’ (AT&T and Comcast) overhead lines to underground. The customer would be responsible for coordinating any conversion work with other utility service providers. Additionally, Alameda Municipal Power might require easements for location of equipment and facilities.
A REVISED PLAN
Why was the program revised?
In 2012, the Public Utilities Board recommended stopping work on underground utility district #31 and tasked AMP with revising the undergrounding process due to concerns voiced by residents and Board members. The City Council accepted that recommendation at a Council meeting on July 7, 2012. Specific concerns included:
- Customers were concerned about the out-of-pocket costs associated with undergrounding projects.
- The criteria for prioritizing a district were not clearly defined.
- Public participation in the program was limited.
How are the next areas for undergrounding being selected?
The Alameda Municipal Code (Chapter XIX) sets the regulations and procedures for the conversion of overhead utility facilities to underground utility facilities through the development of underground utility districts (UUD).
- In 2017, a district nominating board (DNB), made up of four members of the public and one member of the Public Works Department, reviewed dozens of proposed areas and made recommendations.
- A technical advisory committee (TAC) met to examine the technical feasibility of moving lines underground.
- In the coming months, the TAC will present the recommended underground utility districts to the City Council for approval.