- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 19, 2001

"At todays meetings of the Utilities Subcommittee of the Business Roundtable, city officials and utility companies reiterated their commitment to competing the coordinated renovation of the infrastructure in Georgetown so as to ensure the future safety and reliability of Georgetowns utilities." That mouthful came yesterday from city administrator John Koskinen. While Mr. Koskinen will not win any awards for eloquence, the citys residents should be reassured that work on Georgetowns outdated infrastructure is proceeding apace.
The last few weeks have been trying admittedly. Manhole covers have been popping in the heat and an underground fire left hundreds of Georgetown residents and businesses without power. However, D.C. Council member Jack Evans, who represents Georgetown, also said not to worry. Plans were already slated for extensive work in the area to begin in September. "We are already on top of the situation, and have been working on this and are ready to go," he told this page on Friday. "Because this is such a vibrant corridor we only wanted to tear it up once. can do what they need to do and not come back for 10 years." That really is the best scenario given the alternatives.
Taxpayers are well-acquainted with the economic pitfalls as well as the proliferation of potholes of tearing up streets. Residents as well as commuters are often frustrated with added traffic jams and other inconveniences. It makes sense to rip open the street once, not three or four times, to upgrade the infrastructure. Mr. Evans understood he "had to get all four utilities on board."
Besides, the problems in the Georgetown area are not new and not uncommon. The Manhole Cover Explosions Task Force was set into place last year to see what should be done about ancient wiring and water piping systems that have received only sporadic updates. Pepco began replacing the manhole covers with new slotted covers in the fall of 2000, hoping the increased ventilation would ease the problem of more than 50 explosions per year. And it did stem the flying manhole cover problem, which is caused by pressure from underground fires. In May, Pepco announced a $30 million project to rewire the area underground.
In fact, there was no real need to blow a gasket, as The Washington Post did June 15, asking such questions as what "further underground eruptions await the area" and "when will the problem be fixed once and for all?" These questions will have answers in due course, according to plan. Unfortunately, last weeks fire occurred over the course of a couple of particularly brutally hot days, underscoring the need for action. Fortunately, no one was injured by the highly identifiable flying objects, and no property was seriously damaged.
While a sense of urgency must be relayed, cooler heads, including those of Mr. Koskinen and Mr. Evans, should prevail.

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