/ Projects / Pennsylvania Public-Private Partnership Board Approves Commonwealth Fiber Optic Communication Project

Pennsylvania Public-Private Partnership Board Approves Commonwealth Fiber Optic Communication Project

Matt Ball on June 10, 2016 - in Projects, Transportation

Harrisburg, Pa.—Pennsylvania’s Public-Private Partnership (P3) Board recently approved a Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission project to install a fiber optic cable along the 550-mile Turnpike and extensions to provide communication capacity for the commission, state Department of Transportation (PennDOT) and other commonwealth needs.

The board also approved the 2015-16 Annual Report from PennDOT’s P3 Office, which provides updates on active P3 projects and notes accolades received.

“Our public-private partnerships are bringing private-sector ideas and expertise to deliver new or better services in Pennsylvania,” PennDOT Secretary and P3 Board Chair Leslie S. Richards said. “I’m pleased to see this innovation continuing with our partners at the Turnpike, and I encourage the public to review our report to learn how the program is improving our transportation system.”

Through the fiber 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.

“Because of the limited expandability and increasing maintenance costs of our aging microwave backbone, it is imperative, from an operational viewpoint, to develop a fiber-optic network for the future,” said PA Turnpike CEO Mark Compton. “The backbone is one of our most critical communications tools, carrying tolling data and connecting traffic management devices such as Intelligent Transportation Systems; just as important, we need a network capable of handling tomorrow’s 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.

“A P3 will enable us to focus Turnpike capital dollars on rebuilding our 75-year-old highway system and other key ground-transportation improvements,” Compton added. “I thank the PennDOT P3 office for assisting us on this critical project.”

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.

As part of the P3 law, the seven-member Public Private Transportation Partnership Board was appointed to examine and approve potential public-private transportation projects. If the board determines a state operation or project would be more cost-effectively administered or delivered by a private company, the department or appropriate transportation agency can advertise a competitive RFP and enter into a contract with a company to completely or partially deliver the transportation-related service or project.

To view the 2015-16 Annual Report and learn more about P3 in Pennsylvania, visit www.P3forPA.pa.gov.

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