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Overhead Wires

Burying Wires

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Burying Overhead Wires:

A Request for Action       

Click here to see summary of slide presentation. 

Text of Presentation:



There has been a proliferation of unsightly overhead utility wires in the Mercer Hill Historic District in recent years.


A significant percentage of these overhead wires are simply passing through the neighborhood servicing the growing business and commercial interests in the greater Princeton area.


These cables are an eyesore, marring the beauty of this historic neighborhood.


They also interfere with the growth and care of existing trees and limit the ability to plant new trees.

In one case, a mature tree was toppled onto the roof of a neighborhood home when it was hit by the bucket of an out-of-state cable company truck.   

The Mercer Hill Historic District Association has in the past worked with the Princeton Shade Tree Commission to seek a directive from the Princeton Borough Council that whenever roads are reconstructed anywhere in the Borough, an analysis be made of the overhead wire problem, with options and cost projections given for burying the cables. 

We would like to revisit that discussion now, as plans are being made for the reconstruction of Mercer Street, Alexander Street and University Place.

This directive should be confirmed and applied to the reconstruction of Mercer Street, Alexander Street and University Place.



A.  Benefits Of Burying Overhead Utility Wires:


1.  Aesthetics

2.  Service reliability

3.  Increase in property value

4.  Safety Issues

5.  Reduced utility costs over the long term.


1.  Aesthetics:

    The proliferation of overhead wires in recent years

    has created a visual blight overhead.

     Burying utility wires would

     enhance the historic character of neighborhoods,

     create pedestrian- friendly environments,

     and protect trees from over-aggressive  and unsympathetic pruning.


2.  Service Reliability:

     Importance of reliable telephone and electric service for

     home, institutional and business computers and

     other electronic equipment.


3.  Increase in Property Value:

     In the long run, because it makes Princeton a better place.


4.  Safety Issues:

      Danger of downed lines –

      people still drive and walk over and under them,

      as witnessed along Alexander Street in September 2001

5.  Reduced costs over the long term:

     Lower maintenance budgets for utilities over time.

     Less money and labor required to repair downed lines

     Less time and money spent by local governments

     to maintain trees and utility rights-of-way.

     Less lost office and personal time and labor

     dealing with electronic equipment outages.


B.  Costs Of Burying Overhead Utility Wires:


1.  Although costs estimates can be high for conversion to

     underground wires, they are greatly reduced when

     done as a part of road reconstruction. 


2.  Road reconstruction opportunity to save on costs:

     Mercer Street, Alexander Street and University Place

     are now being scheduled for reconstruction,

     allowing for the costs of demolition, excavation,

     restoration and repavement to be spread out

     among several sources. 


C.  The Mercer Hill Historic District:


1.  The Mercer Hill Historic District, located so close to

     the center of town, has been seriously impacted

     by the proliferation of overhead wires.


2.  Why Have We Seen This Proliferation Of Overhead Wires?

3.  Impact of the Federal Telecommunications Act of 1996:


        a).   Cable companies have been competing aggressively

               for use of utility right-of-ways.


4.  Response by some localities has been to adopt measures

     to regulate wired and wireless communications

     in utility rights-of-way. 


5.  Regulation of Rights-of-Way:


                     a).   Some localities plan to use the income derived

                            from these new ordinances to fund

                            burying cables underground.


                     b).  One example of a proposed new ordinance is

                            that of Radnor Township in Pennsylvania,

                            where they intend for the ordinance to

                            “manage a limited resource to the

                            long-term benefit of the public” 


6.  Many towns with scenic or historic attractions are burying or

     seeking to bury electric and other utility wires, including:


Colorado Springs  
Hyde Park 
Sarasota Springs 

Olympia, Washington
Warwick, Rhode Island
Princeton’s Nassau Street and Palmer Square
Several Cape Cod towns and seashore roadways
Tacoma, Washington 
Sandy, Utah 
Significant efforts in the states of California,  Florida, 

Maryland and Texas

as well as in England,  Australia, New Zealand,

Germany and the Netherlands


                    Let’s join them.