Pinole's Pinole Valley Underground District

Pinole Valley Underground District

In the late 1960s, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) established a program through which customers of investor-owned electricity utilities, such as Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), paid a small tariff on their bill to fund overhead electric utility line undergrounding projects. This program is referred to as the “Rule 20A” program. More information on the Rule 20 program can be found here.

Under the Rule 20A program, the electric utility company (in Pinole’s case, PG&E) collects the tariff revenues. Once sufficient funds have been accumulated, a city/county can request that the utility conduct utility undergrounding for a certain portion of the utility network. In order for an undergrounding project to be performed using Rule 20A funds, it must meet certain criteria, such as be performed on a street or road with a high volume of public traffic and eliminate an unusually heavy concentration of overhead lines. The City is responsible for the project; PG&E offers design build services and coordination with the other cooperating utilities. The City of Pinole elected to have PG&E serve as the design build project manager. PG&E, or a contractor it hires, installs the underground infrastructure. Then each utility is responsible for installing its own cables.

When West Contra Costa Unified School District (WCCUSD) decided to renovate Pinole Valley High School, the district was required by the City of Pinole to add signals for safety and make improvements to the street and sidewalk  on the west side of the street as part of the project. The City decided that it would be appropriate and efficient to request that PG&E perform undergrounding of the overhead lines on the east side of the street at the same time. Unfortunately, there were delays in the implementation of the project, such that the high school and associated street work was completed before PG&E was able to undertake the undergrounding on the east side of the street.

Rule 20A project limits The City determined that undergrounding of the overhead lines on the east side of Pinole Valley Road was still the best use of Rule 20A funds. PG&E finally had the capacity to undertake design of our Rule 20A project in March 2017, and began construction in November 2020. Utility poles usually have lines for not just electricity, but also telephone, cable television, and internet. When PG&E conducts an undergrounding project, it also involves undergrounding the other, non-electricity, overhead wires. The Pinole Valley Road undergrounding is expected to be completed in October 2021. 

PG&E’s contractor has already completed the trench work. The trench restoration is scheduled for May 2021. Rule 20A as governed by the California PUC limits paving to restoring the trench only. So, the project will not involve a complete repaving of the road. PG&E is only required to return the pavement above the trench in which the undergrounded utilities have been laid to its condition prior to the trenching.

field photo                        
field photo   

The process through which PG&E and each of the other utilities will be transitioning their customers from overhead lines to underground lines will take place over several months and will require activity at each of the homes affected by the project. If residents have questions about their utility connections and services, the City encourages them to contact Jamie Aldred, Interim Public Works Specialist, at 510-724-9018.

The City expects the Pinole Valley Road corridor to be significantly visually improved as a result of the undergrounding.

For additional information, contact the Jamie Aldred, Interim Public Works Specialist, at 510-741-2065.