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PG&E’s Meadow Vista dig to bury power lines

Work expected to be completed by end of year
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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AUBURN CA - A key stretch of Meadow Vista’s Placer Hills Road will be losing its web of overhead cables by the end of the year. Since March, Pacific Gas & Electric Co. crews have been working to excavate trenches in preparation for burial of power, phone and cable TV lines underground along Placer Hills Road. The targeted area – from Livingston to Combie roads – includes the community’s central business core. The work is part of an ongoing PG&E program to move power lines underground throughout Northern California. Each year, about 30 miles of overhead electric facilities are placed underground by PG&E. Brittany McKannay, PG&E spokeswoman, said Monday that the Meadow Vista project should be completed by the end of the year. The power corporation will be the leader on the project but there will be room for phone company AT&T and cable provider SuddenLink Communications in the trench, she said. The work is done under provisions of the company’s Rule 20A, an electric tariff approved by the California Public Utilities, with projects nominated by cities, counties or municipal agencies. McKannay said jurisdictions can determine that cables need to be placed underground for a number of reasons, including safety for pedestrians and drivers, scenic aesthetics and removing heavy concentrations of overhead wires. “For those customers in the area, when we switch over, they’ll have a short interruption in service – it should be less than a day,” McKannay said. “But we’ll provide them with warning so there should be no surprises.” The project cost is an estimated $3.5 million and will be paid through future electric rates. Matt Toro, owner of TnT Automotive on Meadow Vista Road said the traffic controls have been “a little bit of a hassle” for customers wanting to access his shop. “Unfortunately the work is being done right in front of our driveway,” Toro said. But Toro said he liked the idea of undergrounding cables and the insurance that would provide in the future during heavy storms against power outages when trees or limbs fall onto cables. Belinda Robinson of Meadow Vista Road said she had encountered no serious problems with traffic controls. The longest holdup was about three minutes, she said. “And when I want to walk with my dog across the road, they stop traffic,” Robinson said. George Lay, a Meadow Vista resident since the 1940s, said that he hasn’t heard of any opposition from people to the change in rural character the absence of overhead wires might create. “I’m surprised a group didn’t form to save the power poles,” Lay said, with a smile. Lay added that the effort to work with PG&E on the underground work has been taking place over several years and one of the benefits will be fewer poles for drivers to strike if they go off the road in their vehicles.