SUNSET PARK — A long-awaited project that will result in fewer above ground power lines in a four-block area surrounding Pico Boulevard and 18th Street is underway, City Hall officials have announced.

The $8 million project is expected to take six months to complete and involves placing communications and electricity distribution lines underground.

Some transmission lines in the area will remain above ground for now, but are expected to get the below ground treatment in 2013 during phase two of the project.

The City Council prioritized the project in 2004, when it named the area an “underground utility district,” said Mark Cuneo, City Hall’s principal civil engineer.

Perhaps no one is more pleased with the news than Sunset Park resident Tom Stringer, who helped organize his neighbors to press City Hall for the project in 1999.

He periodically puts out a newsletter with updates on his advocacy that he calls “The Buzz,” in reference to the sound the high concentration of power lines in the neighborhood creates.

“Hallelujah! Phase 1 of the construction work begins,” he began this month’s edition of the newsletter. “Progress has been slow, with many political, bureaucratic and practical bumps in the road.”

The project is paid for under a Southern California Edison set-aside program that Cuneo said accrues $600,000 per year. No money for the project comes out of City Hall’s general fund.

Work will be taking place on Pico Boulevard and Ashland Avenue along 18th Court, 20th Street, 18th Street and Ashland Place North.

nickt@www.smdp.com

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