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For Immediate Release

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Pepco Announces Plans to Rewire Its Underground Electric System in Georgetown

For Immediate Release
May 22, 2001

Pepco announced today a plan to rewire its underground electric system in Georgetown.

"Upgrading our system with new and improved equipment will reduce manhole incidents and provide customers with safer and more reliable service," said Bill Sim, Pepco Senior Vice President of Power Delivery.

The announcement followed the recent completion of an 11-month engineering assessment of Georgetown by experts retained by Pepco in 2000 during a spate of underground electric fires and manhole explosions in the city. The consultants looked primarily at Pepco`s system designs, construction standards and maintenance practices along the business corridors of Wisconsin Avenue and M Street. They also analyzed "load flow" in the residential areas.

Sim explained that the decision to upgrade Pepco`s infrastructure in Georgetown was based on several factors including:

  • the consultant`s reports recommending upgrades to meet future growth;
  • the findings of Pepco`s crews who inspected more than 1,300 manholes there in the last year; and
  • recent manhole incidents in Georgetown, east of Wisconsin Avenue and north of M Street.

He also noted that Georgetown has not benefited from the electric system replacement projects that occurred in many other parts of the city where the Metro rail system was built, large new buildings were constructed and major road reconstruction projects have occurred.

Pepco has developed a plan for major reconstruction work along the main business corridors of Wisconsin Avenue and M Street, and has also targeted portions of the residential area east of Wisconsin for modernization immediately. The company estimates that these upgrades, which will be conducted in stages and timed to minimize disruption, could take from two to four years and $30 million to complete.

Not all businesses and residences would be affected at the same time. One block could be rewired and completed before another is started. Work in other residential areas that have not experienced manhole problems and where the underground system has a different design is still in the planning stage. The company has not assigned costs for upgrades there.

Residential Neighborhood Upgrades
Upgrades for residents would include new cable and switching mechanisms on new transformers to better isolate problems for faster service restoration. In addition, new cables will be reconfigured in a way that reduces smoke and fire if faults should occur. Some conduit may need to be added or rebuilt during this process, and this would involve digging in the streets in addition to pulling through new wire.

Business Corridor Upgrades
The company will also modernize the business corridors of M Street and Wisconsin Avenue. This project encompasses M Street, from 28th to 35th Streets, and Wisconsin Avenue from the C&O Canal to S Street. The company plans to replace the electric system, reduce the amount of cable and conduit under sidewalks and build new conduit to separate high-voltage and low-voltage systems.

Recognizing the disruption caused by construction projects of this magnitude, Pepco has been discussing various aspects of these plans with city officials and heads of business and citizen groups for the last two months. In addition to Pepco`s electrical work, city officials have planned to design and construct new sidewalk and landscaping along portions of the Georgetown business corridors. This could provide a construction opportunity for Pepco`s planned upgrades. Company engineers have presented four different construction options and timetables for the business corridors and are seeking consensus for what the community would find acceptable.

"We are ready to start work in the business corridor as soon as we reach a consensus with the Georgetown community and the city," said Sim.

Background
In the fall of 2000, Pepco sought to mitigate manhole events while waiting for the consultant`s study results. Pepco accelerated its inspections of underground facilities and equipment, completing 1,300 manholes in Georgetown and a total of 10,000 in the District of Columbia at year-end. Several hundred problems found as a result of the inspections have been resolved. By the end of 2001, the company will have completed 20,000 equipment and cable inspections citywide.

Pepco also installed about 2,500 slotted manhole covers in high pedestrian traffic areas in Georgetown and the central business district. Nationally organized tests showed that such manhole covers could minimize the frequency and impact of displacements of manhole covers. None of the slotted manhole covers Pepco has installed has become dislodged during incidents this year.

"Although we cannot guarantee that problems will be totally eliminated in any mechanical and electrical equipment," said Sim, "we can assure our customers that we are responding aggressively at several levels to ensure our system is as safe and reliable as possible."

Point of Contact:
Nancy Moses

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