R5 Ask the Expert, February 2012

Q: Would it be cheaper to run and maintain power lines underground in Westchester to protect them from the elements?

A: “Placing such a complex system underground would be prohibitively expensive, probably running into the tens of billions of dollars,” says Sandy Miller, Westchester director of public affairs for Con Edison. She points out that Westchester County has 12,899 miles of overhead lines on 98,496 poles, and 27,932 overhead transformers. “Such an enormous undertaking would require extensive engineering studies, numerous permits, and a lot of tearing up of streets and sidewalks. That all costs money, and would place an additional burden on our ratepayers.” In addition, she maintains, every homeowner would have to pay $7,000 to $10,000 to convert their overhead connection to an underground connection. For commercial customers, she says, the cost could be as high as $25,000.