School of Public Policy Capstones

Publication Date



This research is about a particular form installation of electric cables known as Undergrounding. The term undergrounding is associated to the fact that this type of infrastructural installation consists in burying the electrical cables beneath the surface instead of leaving these cables on top of poles that are spread throughout the landscape.

Before moving to the research question, it helps to understand why it may be desirable for public administrators to promote undergrounding of power lines. Although the literature on undergrounding is mostly for engineers' perspectives, the case studies reveal the positive and negative aspects of undergrounding--with the pros being related to aesthetic gains, as well as enhanced safety due to more resistance to inclement weather and clearer rights of way, while the cons are basically related to the costs.

This paper investigates the possibilities for financing the works to change existing overhead electric power lines into underground wires. Considering the higher costs of undergrounding, it becomes necessary to search for alternatives to raise the funds necessary for these works. A potential way to direct the funding options to finance undergrounding, while fostering the public participation onto the budgetary decision-making process, can be reached through willingness to pay experiments. And this option was explored with the participation of a group of residents from Northampton, MA.

Recently, the Planning Department of the City of Northampton promoted a series of studies to determine the best allocations for a grant made available by the State of Massachusetts for infrastructural investments called MassWorks. This process included a workshop to consult with the local population about their priorities for the proposals from the grant application--with this project assisting with workshop's preparation where undergrounding was concerned.

The proceedings from Northampton to promote public participation in the decision-making process of determining the grant's destination will be described in methods session. Hopefully, the results from this workshop will serve to help guide future public consultations seeking popular support to finance undergrounding.