- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 23, 2001

Potomac Electric and Power Co. yesterday announced plans for a three-year, $30 million total rewiring of the aging matrix of electrical wires beneath Georgetowns streets and sidewalks.
Pepco Senior Vice President Bill Sim said the decision to upgrade infrastructures was based in part on incidents east of Wisconsin Avenue NW and north of M Street NW.
This year, there have been seven incidents involving manhole explosions and fires.
"Clearly, incidents associated with manhole covers have raised concerns about the safety and reliability of the system," Mr. Sim said.
The rash of flipping manhole covers and underground fires in Georgetown has marred the electric companys image. The incidents are caused when gas pressure from underground fires and chemical reactions increases in tunnels.
"Its no secret that Georgetown has an older system than the rest of the city," Pepco spokeswoman Nancy S. Moses said. "In the residential sector, were going to be pulling out old wires and restringing new cables."
Last year, the company replaced many of the older, solid covers along sidewalks and street crossings with slotted covers, which allow gases to escape before pressure can build up and dislodge them.
Pepco conducted an 11-month engineering assessment of the area.
"What we found was that in the last few incidents in Georgetown, the problem has been in the cable between manholes, which we cannot inspect," Mrs. Moses said.
Pepco said the three-year project will be broken into two sections, one for business upgrades an one for residential upgrades. The business plan is to remove all electrical cables and conduits from underneath the sidewalks and install the new distribution system.
Mrs. Moses said work on the project could begin in as little as three months, depending on how smoothly Pepco can work with the city.
* This article is based in part on wire service reports.


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