P3 Board Approves Fiber Optic Cable Project in Pennsylvania


Pennsylvania’s P3 Board (Public-Private Partnership) had approved the fiber optic cable network project, that is the “Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission project” to install next-generation fiber optic cables along the 880 kilometers Turnpike and extensions to provide communication capacity for the commission, state Department of Transportation (Pennsylvania’s DOT, PennDOT) and other commonwealth needs. Deployment of fiber optic cables will bring new jobs and business opportunities in the area.

Pennsylvania’s public-private partnerships bring private-sector ideas and expertise to deliver new or better services in Pennsylvania. PennDOT Secretary and P3 Board Chair Leslie S. Richards expressed his pleasure to see this innovation continuing with their partners at the Turnpike, and he encourages the public to review our report to learn how the program improves Pennsylvania’s transportation system.

Through the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission project, the Turnpike Commission would establish a partnership through which the private partner would design, build, finance, operate and maintain the fiber optic cable, allowing the partner to market and lease the remaining communications capacity after commission, PennDOT and commonwealth needs are met. A wireless mesh overlay would be installed over the fiber, which would be designed and built by the private partner and turned over to the Turnpike Commission in the future for maintenance.

Due to the limited scope for expansion and the increasing maintenance costs of the aging microwave backbone, it is evident that developing a fiber optic network is always better from an operational viewpoint. PA Turnpike CEO Mark Compton said that their backbone is one of the most critical communications tools, carrying tolling data and connecting traffic management devices such as Intelligent Transportation Systems. The backbone system is very critical and important for the company and they need such a network that is capable to handle future data challenges including connected vehicles.

The Turnpike Commission is pursuing a P3 model for the project because bonding the fiber’s construction would take away resources from other Turnpike capital improvements. The partnership also leverages private-sector expertise in installing, operating, marketing and maintaining fiber optic cable in a region that could be attractive to private-sector connections in nearby metropolitan areas.

Following the board’s approval, the Turnpike Commission will begin seeking industry input and, in October, expects to request statements of qualifications from the private sector demonstrating the ability to partner on this project. The commission expects to select a preferred proposer in June 2017 and aims to have portions of the fiber installed and operational in 2018.

The Public-Private Transportation Partnerships Act was signed into law in September 2012 and authorized P3 projects in Pennsylvania. This law allows PennDOT and other transportation authorities and commissions to partner with private companies to participate in delivering, maintaining and financing transportation-related projects.

The Pennsylvania Turnpike is a key transportation route within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and a vital link in the roadway network of the eastern United States. The Turnpike is 512 miles in length with 55 fare collection facilities, twenty-two service plazas and two traveler information centers, twenty maintenance facilities, eight State Police Barracks and five tunnels. The proposed ITS subsystem expansion will enable the Commission to better collect and disseminate roadway travel conditions and potential alternative routes to motorists to aide in the reduction of congestion. The system should have the capacity to include future expansion.

The Project team has issued tender documents to design, procure, install, integrate, test, train and maintain a 48 fibers single mode fiber optic cable, riser-rated, end to end including all conduit and patch panels at each of the tunnels within this project. The fiber will be connected to the Commissions Wide Area Network (WAN) at each of the tunnel facilities.

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