Underground Utility Districts
Utility undergrounding is the conversion of existing overhead electric and communication facilities to underground locations.
In 1967, the Public Utilities Commission required new electric service connections to be placed underground and funded a gradual program to replace existing overhead distribution lines with new underground service.
The California Public Utilities Commission provides three rules — 20A, 20B, and 20C — that govern different types of areas to be undergrounded. The key difference among the three rules is the party responsible for paying the utility undergrounding costs.
Under the County-administered Rule 20A program, PG&E and other affected utilities are responsible for a majority of the cost.
Under Rule 20B, property owners or developers pay most of the cost, excluding the cost of removing overhead poles, lines, and facilities.
Under Rule 20C, property owners pay the entire cost, less a credit for the salvage value of removed facilities.
The three rules will be described briefly here. Although these rules apply specifically to PG&E, similar rules exist for overhead communication facilities, which must be placed underground at the same time as the electric facilities.
Rule 20A projects are typically in areas of a community that are used most by the general public. To qualify, a project must meet the following provisions:
- The County has determined, through public hearings and consultation with PG&E, that undergrounding is in the general public interest by improving the safety or aesthetics of roads, sidewalks, civic areas, recreational areas, or scenic points of interest that are extensively used by the public at large.
- All existing overhead communication and electric distribution facilities will have been removed from the project area upon the completion of work.
- All affected property owners will have installed the electric service panels, lateral lines, and other facilities needed to receive PG&E’s underground service prior to discontinuation of overhead service, and at their own expense with possible PG&E assistance.
- The area designated for undergrounding extends for at least one block or 600 feet.
Rule 20B projects usually involve larger developments or even neighborhoods which do not fit the Rule 20A criteria, but which involve at least both sides of a street for 600 feet or more.
Under Rule 20B, the applicant is responsible for the installation of the conduit, substructures, boxes, service panels and all costs associated with completing installtion of the underground system. PG&E pays for the removal of overhead facilities.
Rule 20C projects are usually smaller projects involving a few property owners, where neither Rule 20A nor Rule 20B applies. The costs are borne almost entirely by the applicants, less a credit for the salvage value of removed facilities.
Potential benefits of Undergrounding utilities
- Enhanced aesthetics.
- Increased property value.
- Improved public safety.
- More reliable service.
- Reduced fire risk.
- Cost savings through reduced maintenance.
Current Project List
The County Public Works Department maintains a priority list of potential Rule 20A projects in unincorporated Contra Costa County. For more information, please contact us.
For more information on Rule 20B and 20C projects, please visit the “Rule 20 Electric Undergrounding Program” page in the “Field Work and Projects” section of the PG&E website.