- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 30, 2001

Bit by bit, often at night, utility workers and road crews are beginning to tear out the old electrical cables and water, gas and sewer pipes in Georgetown community of Washington, D.C. Once it's all ripped out, they will replace the utility lines with more up-to-date technology, and then top it all with new, smooth roads.
Those systems being replaced were among the first to be installed in the District. Now, they are frayed, worn, leaking, shorting out and sometimes exploding in protest, throwing manhole covers into the air.
"The infrastructure in Georgetown is some of the oldest in the city," said Charles Taylor of Potomac Electric Power Co.
The new beginning came on Monday, when Pepco started rehabilitating the electrical cables and conduits in a six-block residential neighborhood roughly bounded by 26th, 30th, M and Dumbarton streets NW.
Work will be concentrated on one block at a time. Those residents will have access to their homes, although sometimes with inconvenience. Work will begin 9 a.m. and end at 4 p.m. Residents will be told that they may be without power when power is switched from old to new cables.
"There will be some interruptions of service to customers," Mr. Taylor said. "We think no more than four hours." Customers will be warned well in advance.
Much of the work will be under sidewalks. If new connections need to be made to homes, it will be done. Old cables will be dragged from manholes, followed by new cables. Some new trenches 3- to 4-feet deep must be dug.
Explosions in manholes are most unlikely, Mr. Taylor said, because power will be turned off and corrosive conditions will be eliminated.
The new cables will withstand heat better than the old cables and are less likely to corrode, fray and develop other faults, Pepco says. The redesign will reduce smoke and fire if faults should occur.
Work on the first six blocks is expected to be completed by Oct. 19. Then the crews move on to the next residential area.
Rebuilding all residential electrical service in Georgetown, to be completed in 2004, will cost Pepco $10 million.
Rebuilding all utilities in the commercial areas, called the Georgetown Project, will cost $30 million and will involve Pepco, Washington Gas, Verizon, the Water and Sewer Authority and the District's Department of Transportation. It is a coordinated project in which the various services determine which job should be done in which order. Typically, road surfacing will be last, covering the trenches with a smooth, drivable surface.
"This is the first time all of the utilities have come together to redo the infrastructure," said Joel Odum, coordinator of the project.
"It's coordinated. We're working together so everybody doesn't have to go in separately," said Mr. Taylor, explaining that Pepco was planning a major upgrade at the same time the District was preparing a major resurfacing of Georgetown's commercial streets, including new street lamps.
The Georgetown Project work will begin on one block of M Street in mid-September, but planners say it will not overly disrupt the daily business and traffic in Georgetown, or the popular nightlife. When that block is fixed, crews will move on to the next block of M, then eventually up Wisconsin Avenue.
"Georgetown will remain open at night," Mr. Odum said. "The majority of work will be done at night" between 10:30 p.m. and 7 a.m. Work crews will be on the job Sunday through Thursday. No work will be done from Thanksgiving to Jan. 7.
Work is scheduled to be completed by February or March 2004.


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