Why Isn’t Electric Wiring Underground?

by Carey Seal
       Whenever the Baltimore region experiences power outages blamed on wires broken by falling tree limbs, one wonders why the electric wires are above the ground. That’s not the case everywhere. Visitors from Europe are frequently stunned to see the prevalence of above-ground power lines in the U.S.; across the ocean, overhead wires are considered unsightly and unsafe.

       A call to Baltimore Gas and Electric reveals that whether an area’s lines are above or below ground is determined by whether or not the residents are willing to pay BGE extra to run wires underground. Rose Maria Kendig of the utility’s public relations staff explains, “Anyone can pay to have their power lines below ground.”

       Ms. Kendig denied that there is any difference in safety between above-ground and below-ground wires. While above-ground wires are vulnerable to storms and falling trees, she said below-ground wires are suceptible to “shifts in the terrain,” and added that problems with below-ground wires can be harder to detect. Subterranean lines, Ms. Kendig maintained, are “really not more reliable.”

       Nonetheless, BGE will accept money to put them in if you want them.

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This story was published on June 1, 2000.