Ameren upgrades underground electrical system

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ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI)-- This summer`s underground electrical fire in downtown St. Louis got a lot of people wondering about the safety of that aging system of cables, pipes, equipment and manholes.

Electric service in St. Louis goes back to 1902, and some of the manholes and cables being used downtown go all the way back to the beginning.

Most people rarely think about the power below as long as the lights come on.

But that transformer fire got some people`s attention.
And while it is still unclear if the age of the transformer caused the fire, it is clear that downtown`s electric underground is getting old.

"We`ve upgraded and replaced cable and conduit over the years but a lot of this infrastructure is to the point where it is going to require complete replacement," said Ameren`s Senior Director of Division Operations, Larry Clayton.

Ameren is now in the 18th month of a five to ten year revitalization program to keep its aging manholes from falling apart.

"It can vary from some cosmetic repairs to some concrete or roof replacement," Clayton said. "In many cases, we just have to start from scratch and remove the entire facility and go with a pre-cast new manhole."

The upgrades are expected to cost between $25 million to $50 million.

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