In a preview of the massive power outage that gripped parts of the country this past summer, San Francisco experienced its own system meltdown in 1998, which left more than 400,000 Pacific Gas & Electric customers without power. The outage, which was caused by construction crew errors at a San Mateo substation, highlighted the vulnerability of the local grid. PG&E?s 230 kV Jefferson-Martin transmission project is viewed as one way to bolster San Francisco?s overloaded grid. The 27-mile line should be routed entirely underground to avoid environmental impacts, according to a recently released final environmental impact report by the California Public Utilities Commission. ?The load is expected to grow in San Francisco and the Bay Area, and without added capacity, our ability to continue serving that load comes more and more into question, especially when looking at a three- to five-year time frame,? said Gregg Fishman, spokesperson for the California Independent System Operator (CAISO). Along with the city of San Francisco, CAISO has made a case for Jefferson-Martin. After evaluating close to 40 routes, the report favored several underground options to minimize or eliminate harm to recreational and residential areas, wildlife, water, and other resources. For instance, two of the routes would run through a watershed that serves the Crystal Springs Reservoir in San Mateo. PG&E?s original plan, filed with the CPUC last September, proposed a combination of underground and overhead routing. The southern 14.7 miles of line would be run on transmission towers up to a transition station. The remaining 12.4 miles would then run underground. According to PG&E estimates, undergrounding lines would increase Jefferson-Martin?s price tag from about $179 million to roughly $240 million. But the utility remains committed to the project, according to Paul Moreno, utility spokesperson. ?An additional $40 million is certainly significant but not by any means undoable,? said Moreno. One of the underground lines flagged by the report is similar to the underground portion of PG&E?s routing plan, he added. New transmission projects are often a lightning rod for community opposition, and Jefferson-Martin is no exception. At community meetings, some residents have raised concerns that exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMFs) from power lines could pose health risks, while others complained about towers blocking views. The draft environmental impact report found that numerous studies have yielded inconclusive and contradictory findings on EMFs. Additional public-participation hearings for Jefferson- Martin are scheduled in December, and hearings at the commission are scheduled in January. The CPUC will have the last word on routing as part of its final decision on the project, which is expected next May. PG&E hopes Jefferson-Martin will be up and running by 2005.