Sept. 17, 2021 By Allie Griffin
Con Edison has started a $4 million pilot program in Middle Village that involves moving overhead power lines below ground — as a means to prevent future outages.
The energy company announced the program during a Community Board 5 meeting Tuesday and said that it had started work on the project called the “Juniper Valley Undergrounding Pilot.”
Workers are in the process of moving overhead wires below ground along sections of Juniper Valley Road and 77th Street in a residential area in Middle Village.
Con Edison selected the pilot area due to the large number of outages in that section of Queens. There have been 19 total outages in the area since 2012 — affecting 8,970 customers.
The number of outages is due in part to the high density of trees along Juniper Valley Boulevard. Tree branches knocking into the wires during storms have caused multiple power outages in the past, Con Edison officials said.
Moving the lines underground would prevent such outages and make the electrical system more resilient to withstand future, more powerful storms.
“The idea here is to make sure that our system is more reliable,” Richard David, Con Edison’s director of Queens community affairs, said the community board meeting.
The pilot involves removing three overhead transformers and nearly 40 spans of overhead wire. A new underground transformer and overhead backup transformer will replace the old utilities.
Crews have already begun digging along 65th Drive to prepare for the underground wires. They will also install 15 manholes along the underground system.
The pilot will bring the power supply of 152 customers underground, according to Con Edison.
“We are very excited about this project,” David said. “We are inviting our neighbors to work with Con Edison to achieve success here.”
Council Member Holden, in a statement he submitted to Community Board 5, called the pilot “a welcome relief for residents in that area.”
Holden co-sponsored legislation last year to require the Mayor’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability to conduct a study on the feasibility of moving overhead power lines underground.
“In New York City Council, I will continue to advocate for a transition from overhead to underground wiring so that my constituents suffer fewer unnecessary power outages,” he said as part of the statement to the community board.
Con Edison is conducting similar pilot programs in Staten Island and Westchester as well.