Gillum says Undergrounding Won't Totally Protect Electric Grid

Sep 12, 2016

Some who say the storm recovery of Tallahassee’s electric system took too long are urging more of that system go underground. But the city isn’t rushing to dig utility trenches just yet.

A falling tree in downtown Tallahassee did heavy damage to the power lines connected to this cluster of pole-mounted transformers.
Credit Tom Flanigan

With so many trees along utility rights-of-way, the Capital City’s electric grid is especially vulnerable to windstorm damage. Still, city officials insist that more undergrounding may not be the answer. For one thing, they say, about 60% of lines at the neighborhood level are already underground and yet most neighborhoods – including totally undergrounded Southwood – lost power anyway during Hurricane Hermine. And Mayor Andrew Gillum says the price tag for undergrounding all neighborhoods would probably be too much for taxpayers to swallow.

“I believe the early estimates say it would take us twenty years to retrofit this community for undergrounding and it would take about $2 billion, which in my opinion would require a substantial citizen-driven tax,” he said after the storm had passed.

Still, the undergrounding push has its supporters. There’s even a new Facebook page put up by local residents who want to see Tallahassee’s electric lines off the pole and in a hole.