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Patrick: $1 Trillion To Bury Power Lines Underground

By Joe Shortsleeve, WBZ-TV
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A National Grid team repairs a broken power line Monday, Oct. 31, 2011. (Photo courtesy: National Grid)

A National Grid team repairs a broken power line Monday, Oct. 31, 2011. (Photo courtesy: National Grid)

WBZ-TV's Joe Shortsleeve Joe Shortsleeve
Joe Shortsleeve is chief correspondent for WBZ-TV News weekdays a...
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BOSTON (CBS) – For many, it is the second time in eight weeks they have been without power. The cost and inconvenience are wearing on people.

Many are asking the question: is there a better way?

The images are all too familiar: no power, no internet, and spoiled food, all because tree limbs are snapping and ripping down power lines all over the state.

WBZ-TV’s Joe Shortsleeve reports

“I moved here the beginning of this past year, and it’s the first time in my life I have gone so many times without electricity. It has been a new experience,” said one woman.

So, what do we do with these high power lines running along most streets in New England?

WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Kim Tunnicliffe reports

As another woman put it: “By now you would think they would have figured it out…but we are not so lucky.”

Is the answer putting the power lines underground? That is one what they did in one section of Brookline.

Gov. Patrick was asked about the idea of underground utilities Monday at his press conference at the MEMA emergency bunker in Framingham.

“I love the idea. Apparently though, that is a $1 trillion project across the Commonwealth. And that cost and how to pay for it, no one has answered yet,” said Gov. Patrick.

A number of communities like Brookline have moved in recent years to put utilities underground, like Duxbury, Randolph, Newton and Chelmsford. The problem is they tend to be just small pockets in a community of a much larger population.

Brookline Town Engineer Peter Ditto studied the underground utility issue in depth seven years ago, but ultimately Brookline leaders decided against it.

“Based on the prices at the time, it was anywhere from $45 to $150 million and the time frame was 75 years,” said Ditto.

And there are drawbacks to the plan.

Last winter, the i-Team reported about stray voltage, which happens when salt and rain corrode underground wires. Also, repairing underground power lines, when they do fail, costs a lot more because the worker would be repairing the sidewalk or road as well.

A few years ago in downtown Brookline, a high-voltage underground power line failed. The line was cooled with oil, which caused a serious environmental issue as well.

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