By Erich Wagner (File photo)
Officials with Dominion Virginia Power released new details on a pair of proposals to run a 230-kilovolt transmission line through Alexandria Tuesday night at an open house at George Washington Middle School.
Dominion has said since 2014 that it will need to install a new transmission line in the city in order to cope with increased demand on the region’s electrical grid. In August, the utility sent a letter to City Hall confirming it would go through with the project, narrowing its choices to two proposals.
“The load has grown in this area such that the cur- rent underground transmission line under U.S. Route 1 and a transformer in Fairfax County will be overloaded by summer of 2020,” said Peter Nedwick, a transmission planning engineer with Dominion.
The first option would be to install a new underground transmission line along the CSX train tracks in the city connecting the Glebe Road substation in Arlington County with the Potomac River substation by the closed GenOn coal-fired power plant.
And a second proposal would replace and upgrade an existing transmission line that runs from a substation in Potomac Yard to another in the Carlyle neighborhood, running partially along U.S. Route 1. This work would be coupled with upgrades to overhead transmission lines in Fairfax County.
Dominion spokesman Chuck Penn said the utility wanted to address residents’ questions about the project before it files an application for the project with the State Corporation Commission later this year. In the filing, Dominion will state a preference for one of the two proposals, although officials said they have not yet made a decision on that choice.
“We haven’t stated a preference at this point,” Penn said. “Both are viable projects, and both will go into the application itself. And the SCC will make the final call.”
The open house came with new information about the so-called “rebuild solution” running from Potomac Yard to Carlyle. Ben Saunders, a senior siting and permitting specialist for the utility, said that project would be done in two pieces, each taking around 40 weeks.
“Our current easement to work on the line is eight feet, which is very narrow especially when compared with some of our newer easements,” Saunders said. “We will coordinate with the city on a construction easement so that we can work in the road while minimizing the impact on traffic.”
But others noted that the 40-week estimate could vary based on weather, the condition of the existing infrastructure and seasonal spikes in demand for electricity, like on very hot and cold days.
City transportation director Yon Lambert said he was glad to see more details about Dominion’s plans and reiterated the city is happy that both options involve putting trans- mission lines underground.
But he noted concerns about the fact that the “rebuild” solution could have impacts on U.S. Route 1, which the city resurfaced and added dedicated bus lanes to in recent years and which city council listed as among the “most objectionable” routes for a new transmission line.
“I think it’s fair to say that we will work with Dominion to understand what the impacts will be,” Lambert said. “But keeping in mind that the original option for the road was a whole new 230-kV line, we believe the rebuild solution impacts will be less. We still have work to do to determine how much less.”
Judy Noritake, who served on a resident work group tasked by city council with making recommendations on the Dominion proposals, said she hopes the city can secure mitigation efforts from the utility, particularly for Four Mile Run.
“We know there are going to be impacts in the short and long term on the [Four Mile Run] restoration efforts,” she said. “So how can we get them to help with that restoration, and can we maybe get them to help finance the planned pedestrian bridge [in that area]?”
And she said the prospect of construction along U.S. Route 1 under the “rebuild” solution is not nearly as daunting as the original proposal her group rejected for that road.
“There’s going to be disruption, but certainly not as bad as having to lay down a whole new line,” Noritake said. “Even the Potomac Avenue route [that we listed under least objectionable] would have had far greater impacts than this.”
Dominion Virginia Power is expected to file its application with regulators by the end of this year.