Princeton, IL – Small City, Big Modernization Plans

Converting Overhead Utilities To Underground With HDD, HDPE
March 2010 Vol. 65 No. 3
The city of Princeton is helping the environment while protecting its citizens.

For Princeton, IL, a city of 7,500 residents, the future is now as it continues to modernize itself through a program that will eventually see all overhead electrical utility cables put underground.

From the beginning of the program seven years ago until late in 2009 when cold weather conditions pre-empted additional work, many miles of underground lines have been installed.

The primary goal for this initiative is safety. Going underground by using high-density polyethylene (HDPE) conduit pipe eliminates the need for crews to climb and trim tree branches that grow around the power lines. There are other benefits for the picturesque and historical city.

“While some large cities fear putting utilities underground because of unfounded opinions about cost, Princeton has embraced the idea,” stated Tony Radoszewski, executive director of the Plastics Pipe Institute (PPI). “Princeton is a small city with sharp thinking leaders, namely its civic officials and its electrical utility managers. They know that by burying power lines and at the same time planning for the expanding use of technology, Princeton will have a confident power grid for many generations.” Founded in 1950, The Plastics Pipe Institute Inc. (PPI) is the major trade association representing all segments of the plastic piping industry.

Located some 115 miles west of Chicago, Princeton’s motto is: “Where Tradition Meets Progress.” Its utility conversion program is being done in small steps. “We try to do at least one project every year where we convert from existing overheads that end in an easement in a backyard,” said Jeff Mangrich, superintendent for the city of Princeton Electric Department.

The installation method used is to directionally drill the HDPE conduit in the ground. This method requires very little disruption of the surface, saving money and time that would be required to repair a large trench used to install pipe made from other materials.

“The reason we selected HDPE pipe is because we bore everything in,” he stated. “And we prefer not to do any open trenching because boring is so much less invasive. For some new developments and new construction sites, however, we choose between boring or cut and cover depending on whether or not we have a boring machine available. It’s also easy to fuse HDPE pipe in the trench.”