Watsonville City Council Approves Formation of Underground Utility District

City Council approves Underground Utility District on Lake Avenue between Rodriguez Street and Union Street.

City Council, at it’s February 26th Meeting, approved for Public Works’ staff to coordinate with utility companies and prepare documents to create an Underground Utility District on Lake Avenue between Rodriguez Street and Union Street.

In 1968, the City of Watsonville amended its Municipal Code to call for all new developments to install electric, telephone and cable facilities in underground conduit and boxes.  The benefits of underground utilities include better reliability, reduced storm outage potential, greater traffic safety, improved neighborhood appearance and enhanced property values.

The California Public Utility Commission created a program to allow utility companies and cities to remove existing overhead utility lines and install them underground.  Within areas serviced by PG&E, the program is administered by PG&E and referred to as the Rule 20-A Program.  PG&E assistance includes funding, design of construction plans and documents and project oversight.

What are Rule 20-A Funds and how do they work?

Rule 20-A funds are provided by the utility companies.  A portion of the rates collected by the utility companies are set aside to be used specifically for undergrounding projects.  Rates collected from Watsonville residents are set aside for projects within the City.

To implement the program, the City Council passes a resolution establishing an underground utility district and orders all utilities within district boundaries to be installed underground within a specified period of time.  Any utilities installed within the district and after its formation must also be placed underground.

Has the City used 20-A Funds before?

The City has utilized this program in the past. Examples include most of the downtown area. The most recent project that has been constructed was done in the late 1990s, on Freedom Boulevard between Main Street and West High Street.

When will work begin?

There is a seven year waiting list for Rule 20-A projects that have been approved.  This is because PG&E allocates a specific amount of Rule 20-A funds to be spent each year and the number of Rule 20-A projects requested by agencies far exceeds the annual funding allocation. The utility companies would begin work in 2020.

What is the estimated cost of the project?

The cost of the proposed project is $1,200,000 and would be paid for with Rule 20-A funds that the City accrues.  Some of these funds will be spent on the Freedom Boulevard project when construction begins in 2015.  However, the City will have accrued sufficient funds by 2020 to meet the proposed cost.

If you have any questions, you can call Murray Fontes, Principal Engineer at 768-3117.

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