MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Is the cost for putting this city’s power lines underground really untenable? Memphis Light Gas and Water’s CEO J.T. Young thinks so. To hear him talk, just having public conversations about the issue is a waste of time.
Underground, he contends, is not all it’s cracked up to be. But tell that to the thousands of people still waiting to get their electricity restored six days after the latest ice storm did what ice storms do in Memphis – topple trees and knock out power.
I assume Young did tell that to Mayor Jim Strickland. The two men spoke earlier this week. But if so, Strickland is not completely buying it. He believes there should be renewed conversations about putting lines underground – including the massive cost that goes with it – which the mayor said would be about $3 billion. Young, however, put the price tag at $6 billion. So they are definitely not on the same page.
Meanwhile, affected Memphians want something done to keep massive power outages from happening every time ice comes our way. And since cutting down all the trees in Memphis is not an option, perhaps it is worth revisiting underground lines.
That will take leaders who are also capable of getting state and federal officials involved. It won’t be easy, but if ever there were a much-needed infrastructure project in America, this is it.