PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Roads and utility workers continue to clear trees and fallen cables as the area re-digs after another major storm that hit tens of thousands.
Can something be done to prevent these outages as the storms continue to unfold?
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Around 1,200 customers were without electricity on Thursday evening because fallen trees again devastated the overhead lines. The city says it’s time to put these cables underground.
After these severe storms, Duquesne Light’s work teams have once again spread across the area removing limbs, repairing lines and restoring power. But the city has seen that all too often.
“Trees and power lines don’t go together. Climate change and the lack of federal funding for infrastructure and resilience are really what don’t go together, ”said Deputy Mayor Dan Gilman.
Around 32,000 Duquesne Light customers lost power in the most recent storm when wind and rain tore mighty trees and power lines with them.
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Deputy Mayor Dan Gilman says the lines should have been buried decades ago, but the country lacked the will. Now, he says, with global warming, those storms are coming more frequently and the damage is getting worse.
“No, Americans, no one from Pittsburgh wants to hear that these are 100-year-old storms or 50-year-old storms if they happen every 35 days, but we as a country have not invested, whether it’s landslides, whether it’s burying utilities it … building the infrastructure and the backbone of our country, ”Gilman said.
For its part, Duquesne Light does not have a comprehensive program for laying the cables underground, and says: “The unique topography of our region makes it difficult to fully transition to the underground infrastructure, which also comes with various challenges that make repairs more complex.”
Instead, the company will continue to focus on vegetation management, pruning trees, and the like. But laying utility lines underground would cost billions in the city alone – not a cost the company could easily pass on to its tariff payers.
“No company can do that. This needs to be a national priority in the United States, ”Gilman said.
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As the Peduto government expires its final year, Gilman is calling for a very large infrastructure bill to be passed to address things like overhead lines. The scope of this bill is the subject of heated debate in Congress.