To ensure that Duquesne Light will be able to maintain the level of service and reliability customers have come to expect, the company announced that it is investing more than $500 million in the region's electric infrastructure to replace aging circuits and equipment and to improve power capacity.

Duquesne Light CEO Morgan O'Brien made the announcement on Pittsburgh's North Side, where the company broke ground for a new training facility and a service center for downtown Pittsburgh and surrounding neighborhoods. O'Brien was joined by Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) Secretary Dennis Yablonsky, Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato and Pittsburgh Mayor Tom Murphy.

"Today is much more than a groundbreaking for two new buildings," O'Brien said. "I'm here to talk about a significant investment in the Pittsburgh region over the next several years that will make needed improvements to the wires, transformers, substations, poles and other equipment that enable us to deliver power safely and reliably to our customers' homes and businesses. Events like the devastation of Hurricane Katrina and the massive Northeast Blackout of 2003 bring into sharp focus the importance of reliable infrastructure."

To help complete this work, the company expects to add 150 full-time employees to the Duquesne Light workforce. In addition, approximately 120 project-specific positions will be available to skilled trades people in the region over the next several years.

Duquesne Light is proactively replacing facilities and electric equipment that have served residents of Allegheny and Beaver counties well for decades, but now are nearing the end of their useful operating lives. Projects, beyond the two facilities featured in today's groundbreaking, include:

- Improving power capacity to serve the growing electricity needs at Oakland-area hospitals and universities.

- Refurbishing the aging underground systems that power sections of downtown Pittsburgh and the growing North Shore commercial district.

- Adding contingency plans to feed power to the downtown network.

- Completing the conversion of older distribution circuits to higher- voltage circuits that can use newer technology to help maintain reliability.

- Upgrading transmission lines that will improve the flow of electricity in the eastern part of the company's service area, and help to balance the power load throughout the two-county service territory.

- Upgrading underground lines and other related equipment in older suburban housing plans that have been in service from as far back as the 1960s.

In addition to consolidating all of the training for operations employees on one site, the Duquesne Light Training Center will be home to the company's Electrical Distribution Technology (EDT) program. This cooperative effort with the Community College of Allegheny County helps the company develop and maintain highly skilled workers in multiple areas of electrical transmission and distribution, while providing younger residents the skills and salary they need to remain in southwestern Pennsylvania. The program already has provided a bright future for 40 area residents, with another 54 slated to graduate over the next two years.

The new Preble Service Center, which replaces nearby buildings that date back almost 100 years, will ensure that Duquesne Light will be able to continue to provide a high level of service and reliability to the region's epicenter.