Underfoot, Downtown

We’re all aware of cable networks that bring us voice, internet and entertainment--a fairly modern invention it would seem. But did you know Spokane’s most reliable cable network was built over a century ago? And that it’s still in use today?

Avista’s downtown electric network is an underground delivery system so reliable, in fact, it’s gaining the interest of data centers and other businesses in need of uninterrupted power.

The buried network was constructed in the early 1900s by Washington Water Power, which envisioned Spokane as a future hub for the Inland Northwest. Encompassing the area from Maple Street to Division and 3rd Avenue to the Spokane River, the system is many times more reliable than other networks found in many downtown cities.

This hidden network consists of 147 transformer vaults and 1000 manholes ranging in size from 1-½ boxcars to space barely large enough for two Avista crewmen. These are connected by a grid of 3-inch pipes encased in protective concrete through which electric cable is stretched.

Most of the electricity used to supply the downtown network is renewable hydropower from the nearby Spokane River. Both Upper Falls and Monroe Street dams supply two downtown substations. The power is then split into quadrants with four feeder lines to each area, making outages a rare problem in this dense cable network.

Much of the cable system that was installed in the 1920’s is still in use today. Avista is slowly upgrading with a newer style of cable that is safer for the crews that are trained specifically for this work. Next month, learn more about these close-knit crews who are underfoot in our Downtown network.

Watch a short video of a crew in action.

Watch video


  1. Electric
  2. Renewable Energy
  3. Rivers