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Why don’t utility companies put older power, phone and cable lines underground?

Jim Brumm

Progress Energy does not bury older power lines because of the cost, compounded by the difficulty in maintaining underground lines.

And what the electric utility does sets the scene for the phone and cable companies who use the poles supporting the electric wires to support their services.

Progress Energy spokesman Jeff Brooks said the cost of underground distribution lines is three to four times that of service provided on wooden poles, and pointed out that the cost is more than burying the wires. It also includes such items as concrete vaults for transformers.

When the utility installs underground service in a new development, the developer pays the additional cost, Brooks said.

Although safe from wind damage, things do go wrong with underground power lines. When it does, Brooks said, the repair time is about three times longer — and it leaves behind a big hole in the ground that has to be filled and landscaped.

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