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BGE to spend at least $1 million fixing power outage problems in Roland Park

Solutions outlined at Roland Park Civic League meeting

By Larry Perl, lperl@tribune.com

8:43 AM EST, February 8, 2013

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On a night when Baltimore Gas & Electric Co. warned of possible power outages from a brewing nor'easter, BGE officials were in Roland Park, presenting plans to fix frequent outages on many of the community's streets.

Roland Park residents have complained in recent years their houses constantly lose electricity for no apparent reason, even in nice weather and sometimes on one side of a street but not the other.

The problem has been exacerbated by extreme weather such as super storm Sandy and a freak derecho that left thousands in the dark last June. BGE representatives told the Roland Park Civic League last October that they were formulating a plan to identify the causes, ranging from downed lines to squirrels, and make the necessary repairs.

On Thursday, the same officials were back before the civic league, presenting a detailed strategy for four main trouble spots — Merrymount Road, Longwood Road, Indian Lane and Oakdale Road. The plan would cost at least $1 million, they said.

On Merrymount, which is supplied by the BGE Cold Spring substation, BGE would remove an 820-foot overhead wire at Merry-mount and Edgevale Road, install an underground module at Northern Parkway and Falls Road and reroute electricity to customers on the north end of Merrymount.

On Longwood Road, which is serviced by the Mount Washington substation, BGE would replace a 500-foot overhead wire along Blackberry and Elmwood roads, remove a 1,200-foot overhead wire on Edgevale Road, install a 1,400-foot underground cable, and switch devices along Longwood. Those fixes would also affect other nearby roads, including Midvale and Elmwood, said Stuart Page, a BGE engineer.

On Indian Lane, which is served by the Mount Washington substation, BGE would replace a 2,000-foot overhead wire on Edgevale, remove a 500-foot overhead wire on Edgevale, install a 500-foot underground cable along Club Lane and perform routine and enhanced tree trimming along Indian Lane. That part of the plan would also affect Beechdale, Elmhurst and Club roads, Page said.

On Oakdale Road, which is also served by the Mount Washington substation, BGE would replace a 9,000-foot overhead wire along Oakdale and Long Lane and install "wildlife protection" in the area to keep squirrels and other animals away from power lines. Other streets impacted by that strategy would include Roland Avenue, Boulder Lane, and Ridgewood, Club, Upland, Elmhurst and Carlowe roads.

"This is going to affect a large number of customers," Page said.

Most of the fixes are also designed to keep lines free of heavy forestation, Page said. He said replacement wires, known as "tree" wires, would be insulated. Current lines aren't insulated, he said.

Other planned fixes include removing overhead wires at Kenwood Road, Melrose Avenue, Lake Manor Drive and Holland Avenue, Page said. He also said the Mount Washington substation is being rebuilt.

Work on the planned projects would be done concurrently when possible and could take up to a year to finish, BGE officials said.

The 30 people at the civic league meeting applauded the BGE team, but Anne Porterfield, who said she had almost weekly outages in early 2012, wanted to know "how confident you all are" that the strategies would work.

Page and Michael Garzon, a BGE supervisor, said the plan was based on data analysis and walking the streets.

"We have to go by what the data says," Garzon said. He said there may be pockets in which BGE has to refine its strategy.

"We're not going to be able to stop hurricane events," he said. "We're never going to eliminate all outages."