Anne Pramaggiore, ComEd's president and chief executive officer, wants to make this clear: ComEd does not take its manholes lightly.
"We are paying a lot of attention to the manhole program," Pramaggiore said last week at a meeting between ComEd officials and the Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board. "We think that it is unprecedented. We don't know of another program this comprehensive that is out there on manholes."
Fans of "The Third Man Theme" might think manholes lead only to sewers, but power utilities use them, too, to access their cable runs. The power cables rest on brackets in ducts underneath the street, and if they are properly installed and maintained, they last longer.
"Having manholes that are in good shape means your cables are going to last longer, and you will have fewer faults," Pramaggiore said.
ComEd has assessed about 3,000 of its 28,000 manholes and refurbished about 1,700.
After winning a controversial battle in the Legislature last year, ComEd has more money to spend on infrastructure modernization, improving storm response and working on "customer engagement" in its planned "smart grid" system.
The manholes are just part of the infrastructure modernization, which is slated to cost $2.6 billion over the next 10 years. Other work includes:
- Refurbishing or replacing about 225 miles of underground cable since January, about double the pace of any previous year.
- Replacing 24 miles of main line cable. In the past, the utility has replaced about 10 miles per year.
- Repairing or replacing about 1,100 poles year-to-date. In the past, ComEd has averaged about 1,400 for a full year.
- Installing 320 "smart switches," which is about a 70 percent increase. If there's an outage on a feeder line that serves, say, 1,000 customers, the smart switch will route the power around the line break and get service to some customers instead of leaving everyone in the dark.
"[If] you have got 1,000 people, and you got 250 on the wrong side of the fault, they are going to see an outage just like we do today," Pramaggiore said. "The other 750 will see maybe a flickering, and their power gets rerouted."
Read a July 16 Mundelein Review story about what ComEd is doing in Libertyville, Mundelein and Vernon Hills here.
Read a July 7 New York Times profile of Anne Pramaggiore here.
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