Overhead lines to go underground on Via De La Valle

Over a mile of overhead utility lines on Via De La Valle will be the focus of an upcoming undergrounding project.
Over a mile of overhead utility lines on Via De La Valle will be the focus of an upcoming undergrounding project.

(Karen Billing)

SDG&E is expected to begin construction soon on undergrounding a little over a mile of overhead utility lines on Via De La Valle.

The Del Mar Electric Transmission Line Reconfiguration project will include the conversion to underground of approximately 1.1 miles of 12-kilovolt line, resulting in the removal of five overhead poles. SDG&E will also be installing two new poles near the Del Mar Horsepark.

The project will help increase system capacity and reliability while also improving safety and aesthetics in the surrounding communities and the neighboring San Dieguito River Park. The work is expected to begin as soon as local permits are acquired.

The project’s start can not come soon enough for Rancho Santa Fe resident Mel Satterburg. Satterburg has been asking for over two years for the section of Via De La Valle between I-5 and San Andres by Flower Hill Promenade to be repaved, but it must be coordinated with the SDG&E project. He has submitted multiple “Get It Done” requests to the city and is now in communication with his second San Diego mayor.

He said the street, which serves as a major east-west thoroughfare for Del Mar, Solana Beach and Rancho Santa Fe residents, is in terrible shape and is dangerous to drive, especially at night or in weather conditions like rain or fog.

“Pot holes, deep ruts, weeds in the center median and street and faded white lines by the two upscale shopping centers. We were promised re-surfacing of this street but it never happened,” Satterburg wrote in his latest appeal to Mayor Todd Gloria. “Residents here, who drive this street almost daily, are very frustrated and angry that the city has tolerated this very dangerous condition for so long.”

Per the city’s transportation and storm water division’s project lists and timelines, SDG&E had been expected to begin the first phase of the undergrounding project last April and wrap up by October 2020. Asphalt resurfacing was then scheduled to be completed by the end of last year.

Per the adjusted timeline, construction on phase one was expected to begin on April 12, with phase two starting in July for a completion date of February 2022. As of press time, construction has not yet begun.

As part of the undergrounding, street lights will also be installed in the Via De La Valle corridor—per the posted timeline, the project is expected to begin construction in January 2022 with estimated completion in September 2023.

When all construction and trench work is completed, the road can be repaved. According to Anthony Santacroce, senior public information officer for the city, he understands while it isn’t pleasant for residents there is a lot of work scheduled for the roadway and it all must be completed before resurfacing. Once it is resurfaced there will be a moratorium on work for at least three years, he said.

“We understand the community’s desire to have this work completed quickly,” said Denice Menard, SDG&E communications manager. “We will work in close coordination with local stakeholders to ensure the project is completed in a safe and timely manner, while also considering the upcoming horse racing season, school schedules and other community needs.”

SDG&E stated it is committed to supporting undergrounding efforts throughout its service area where feasible—about 60% of SDG&E’s distribution system is underground. According to Menard, some parts of the region, due to topography or other considerations, create design challenges that can impact the cost of undergrounding. The estimated cost of the Via De La Valle project was given as approximately $10 million to $100 million.