CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Contractors are working around and under the city of Charleston this summer to perform maintenance and improve the underground power network that provides electricity for downtown businesses.
As part of the project, workers are repairing or replacing power cables, transformers and the underground concrete vaults that house them.
Charleston is one of three cities in the Appalachian Power network that has an underground power network. Others are in Huntington and Roanoke, Va.
Appalachian Power spokesman Phil Moye said the work is part of the company's annual maintenance program to reinforce the local power grid.
"Essentially, it's making sure that we have the equipment in place to keep that underground network reliable," Moye said.
He said while that equipment is usually good for decades, crews need to inspect it routinely to make sure it hasn't degraded.
He said the concrete vaults that house the equipment are vulnerable to the elements, the weight of traffic and runoff containing the salt used to treat roads in the winter.
Once wear and tear sets in, crews mark areas for replacement.
In addition to upgrading the underground network, workers are taking advantage of the opportunity to move some aboveground equipment, such as the overhead transformer platforms in some alleyways, to new underground vaults.
Moye said the move can improve aesthetics for buildings and is also less restrictive to traffic.
Crews recently installed an underground vault along Quarrier Street near the Kanawha County Library.
Contractors with Virginia-based New River Electrical Corp. are installing another vault on McFarland Street.