Power line leaves Metroway in limbo

Power line leaves Metroway in limbo

By Erich Wagner (Photo/Erich Wagner)

Alexandria City Council’s resident transit guru is worried the city’s most recent major public transportation project could be torn up before it even is finished.

“Well, the last thing we would want is to tear up [U.S.] Route 1 just after finishing the Metroway,” said City Councilor Tim Lovain. “A lot of the options [Dominion Virginia Power has] proposed are very disruptive — and I still question the need for this line — but to rip up this street, especially after we just finished a major, expensive improvement would be terrible.”

The heavily trafficked is one of nine possible routes for a planned 230-kilovolt transmission line linking Dominion’s South Glebe Road substation and a Pepco substation on the site of the closed GenOn power plant. Utility officials argue the project will improve the reliability of the area’s power grid.

But it is the one that inspires the most fear, and for good reason. It is one of the busiest thoroughfares in the entire city; officials describe it as the most obvious “straight shot” between the two substations; and workers only recently finished the first phase of a $22 million repaving project to install dedicated bus lanes from the Port City north into Arlington County.

Despite officials’ and residents’ concerns, Dominion has done little to quell nightmares of watching millions of dollars flush down the drain. The utility refused to say whether it could mitigate or minimize the impact of construction on the Metroway as recently as Tuesday, citing the fact that they will not announce a preferred route for the project until next month.

“We prefer not to engage in any form of ‘What if?’ or speculative posture relative to any of the nine routes currently under consideration,” said spokesman Chuck Penn in a statement. “Currently, there is no preferred route. We will continue to work with city leadership, the [resident] work group and all other stakeholders to find a route that has the least impact, both during and after construction.”

And city officials said they don’t have enough information to even begin to speculate about how the power line might affect the Metroway and its construction if Route 1 is chosen. Transportation Director Yon Lambert said they know nothing more than the fact that the road is an option.

“We won’t know what the impacts might be until we see a solid proposal from Dominion about where the lines might go along Route 1,” Lambert said. “We already have a 230-kilovolt line running under Route 1 on the northbound side. The question is: Are we looking to do additional excavation and co-locate the lines in the northbound lanes? Will it be potentially within the Metroway? We simply don’t know any of that yet.”

The lack of specifics makes it difficult for city staff or the resident-led work group examining the proposal, to make informed recommendations regarding so-called “least objectable” routes.

“That’s a point we have been making to Dominion from the beginning,” Lambert said. “We have repeatedly requested information from Dominion, and while Dominion has been coordinating with us through the working-group process, they have also stated that they plan to file with the state corporation commission at the end of November, and at that time is when we expect more detailed information.”

The next meeting of the city’s work group is scheduled for tonight at 7 p.m. at the Lee Center at 1108 Jefferson St. Dominion representatives are expected to discuss the various proposed routes, while officials with PJM, the company that runs the electrical grid across the region, will outline the need for the project.