Burying DC's Power Lines Would Cost Almost $5.8 Billion

A blog about business and economics.
July 6 2012 3:12 PM

Burying DC's Power Lines Would Cost Almost $5.8 Billion

The best way to prevent storm-related power outages is to bury the power lines, but as Joe Stephens writes, this is expensive:

A two-year-old study commissioned by District regulators found that burying all overhead lines in the city would cost $5.8 billion. The work would take years to complete and would be a major disruption. Costs in Montgomery County might add an additional $4 billion. The result would be a big increase in customers’ monthly bills, perhaps hundreds of dollars.

But what I think is important here is that whether or not these costs are prohibitive depends largely on the density of the area. If Washington were as densely populated as Brooklyn, that $5.8 billion cost would be spread across 2.2 million residents instead of 620,000. That would be much more affordable. Would that many people want to live in DC if it were allowed? It's hard to know for sure. But the only way to find out would be to upzone and let more construction happen in the places where there's demand.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.


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