• A Way To Underground Utilities

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    Since the announcement was made two years ago that Richmond Highway would be widened, Mount Vernon Lee Chamber of Commerce has urged our elected officials to underground utilities as part of the road widening project.

    Our local elected officials have unanimously told us that they strongly support the undergrounding of utilities but that Fairfax County does not have the $40 million needed for such a project.

    Now legislation introduced by Senator Scot Surovell will provide a funding mechanism to accomplish undergrounding of utilities.  SB1759 would enable Fairfax County to put a tax of not more than $1 per month on electric bills throughout the county to pay for undergrounding of electric distribution lines along roads with transit-oriented development. This bill has passed both houses of the General Assembly and appears likely to be signed by the Governor.  

    Undergrounding of utilities is the standard for new construction. It is simply what is done with new development for both reliability of service and aesthetics. Even Fairfax County’s comprehensive plan requires new development to underground utilities on Richmond Highway.

    The question on Richmond Highway is whether the undergrounding of utilities is done while the road is ripped up and being widened and then paid for by the public sector or whether the undergrounding is done piece-meal over time as each parcel along the highway is re-developed and the cost paid for by the private sector.

    For businesses and residents alike the answer for Richmond Highway is clear. Do the job once and have the road under construction once and not continually for the next 40 years while individual parcel undergrounding takes place.

    Senator Surovell’s legislation gives Fairfax County a funding mechanism and a path to the future. Why not start a County fund for utility undergrounding and plan for the future? Richmond Highway is not the only highway in Fairfax County with transit-oriented development that could benefit from utility undergrounding.

    VDOT will soon announce design plans for Richmond Highway widening and now is the time to act to ensure utilities are undergrounded as part of this project.
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