Trans-Allegheny Interstate Line Company (TrAILCo), a subsidiary of Allegheny Energy Inc., has announced that the evidentiary hearing for its high-voltage transmission project will begin Monday, March 24, in Pittsburgh before the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission.

State regulators in Virginia and West Virginia conducted similar hearings earlier this year. Allegheny is awaiting decisions from regulators in both those states.

During the Pennsylvania hearing, TrAILCo witnesses – including a representative of PJM Interconnection, the regional grid operator that has directed construction of the line – will testify to the need for the line, the proposed route, and more. Evidentiary hearings are on-the-record proceedings that allow for cross-examination of witnesses and a thorough presentation of all evidence related to a specific project. TrAILCo has also filed written testimony in connection with the hearing to respond to the testimony of other parties, including opponents of the line.

A 37-mile segment of the 500-kV line, along with three related 138-kV lines, will specifically address local reliability concerns in Southwestern Pennsylvania’s Washington and Greene counties, where demand growth is straining Allegheny Power’s transmission system.

“TrAIL is the right solution to keep the lights on for years to come,” said David E. Flitman, President of Allegheny Power. “The evidentiary hearing will give us the opportunity to demonstrate the careful evaluation undertaken to address reliability issues in Southwestern Pennsylvania. We’re eager to obtain a timely ruling on the project to maintain the siting and construction schedule necessary to ensure the local transmission system continues to function properly.”

PJM, the organization responsible for the transmission grid for a 13-state area, warns that without TrAIL the stability of the grid and reliable flow of electricity cannot be reasonably assured. This could result in blackouts, voltage disruptions, and brownouts throughout the Mid-Atlantic region as soon as mid-2011. In Southwestern Pennsylvania, Allegheny forecasts potential reliability problems with the local system as soon as 2009.

In Southwestern Pennsylvania, the line will carry power north from the proposed 502 Junction substation near the West Virginia border to the Prexy substation proposed for Washington County. The new transmission infrastructure in Pennsylvania will also include three smaller 138-kV lines, each approximately five miles in length, which will connect the Prexy substation to existing lines that deliver electricity to customers in Washington County.

The other segment of TrAIL in Pennsylvania is approximately one mile in length and will extend from 502 Junction to the Pennsylvania-West Virginia state line, where it will continue across West Virginia to the Meadow Brook substation near Middletown, Virginia. Dominion Virginia Power will build the line from an interconnection point east of Meadow Brook to its Loudoun substation. The 502 Junction-to-Loudoun portion of TrAIL is necessary to meet the growing demand for power in the Mid-Atlantic region and to prevent several existing transmission lines from overloading as early as 2011.