WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) — District of Columbia Mayor Vincent Gray wants to move up to 60 major power lines underground at a cost of $1 billion to prevent extended outages in the future.

The mayor on Wednesday accepted a task force’s recommendation that the lines be moved underground. The task force was convened after a severe storm last summer that knocked out power to some Washington-area residents for a week or more.

Gray used his weekly radio address Sunday to further explain the benefits of burying the city’s primary lines while pointing out that existing, above-ground utility poles won’t go away.

“It isn’t as if the poles are going to disappear, because there will still be telecommunication firms that will be using the poles and even some of the secondary lines in the city will be continued. But the real impact of these outages lies in these primary lines that we call feeders,” Gray says.

Outages may still happen if those secondary lines are taken down, Gray says, but they’ll affect a much smaller area.

“The secondary lines really have a much more narrow scope. They effect very few households, nowhere near the number of the primary feeder lines,” Gray says. “It means for those that might go out, their restoration time is much shorter.”

Customers of the city’s electric utility, Pepco, would pay for the majority of the project through higher bills. City officials say rates for residential customers would increase by $1.50 a month at first. The increase would top out at $3.25 per month by 2020.

The plan would have to be approved by the D.C. Council and the district’s Public Service Commission.

Listen to Gray’s weekly radio address in its entirety:

The mayor’s weekly radio address can be heard at 10:05 a.m. every Sunday exclusively on All-News 99.1 WNEW and streamed online.

WNEW’s Matt DelSignore contributed to this report. Follow him and WNEW on Twitter.


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