There's more to the road reconstruction along Main Street in downtown Akron than meets the eye.
One of the hidden elements came into view Thursday in front of the FirstEnergy Corp. building at 76 S. Main St., where the utility's Ohio Edison subsidiary worked with Kenmore Construction to guide three pieces of a precast concrete vault weighing a total of 57 tons into its place about 12 feet underground.
FirstEnergy spokesman Mark Durbin said the vault, which will be beneath a ventilation grate along the sidewalk once the Main Street construction is complete, is a key component in the "electricity highway" that powers downtown. It is part of an estimated $15 million update Ohio Edison is making to its downtown grid during the current phase of the street overhaul.
FirstEnergy isn't alone; Dominion Energy is replacing natural gas lines and AT&T is installing an underground fiber optic network while South Main Street is stripped down to its dirt road appearance of the town's early days.
Durbin said undertaking the project now while the street and sidewalk layers are peeled away saves money and also spares traffic from future hassles once the road overhaul is complete.
"The goal is to be seamless," he said. "When all is said and done, people will be walking over this every day not even realizing the incredible work and coordination that it took to put this here."
He said Ohio Edison's work will enhance service reliability for its downtown customers and accommodate planned redevelopment efforts. This project includes replacing or repairing 38 utility holes, 12 vaults, ductwork, transformers, underground cable and other electrical devices — with much of the existing equipment dating back to its original installation in the late 1950s.
The Kenmore Construction crew used a giant crane to install the vault and an adjacent chamber where workers will be able to access the underground operation through a utility hole. Both were manufactured by Lindsay Concrete of Canal Fulton.