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Construction Report: Fairbanks DOT crews lay fiber optic cables using underground drills

Published: Aug. 16, 2021 at 3:44 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - The Fairbanks Department of Transportation (DOT) has begun laying more fiber optic cables to traffic signals across the city.

According to Caitlin Frye, Northern Region Information Officer with Alaska DOT, there are two methods to lay fiber optic cables. “Today we’re putting some conduit underneath the intersection of College Road and Old Steese Highway for a fiber optic cable that is going to connect the signals in this area with our traffic operations center in our Peger Road building. There are basically two ways to get this fiber optic cable under the ground. You can either trench, which is like digging a ditch, lay it in there and fill it back in. What they’re doing here today is boring, which is basically like digging underneath the road horizontally - [but] the great benefit to this is that it minimally impacts traffic. So you won’t see a lot in the way of traffic control, except some sidewalk closures.”

Frye said the fiber optic cables will allow for more efficient traffic signals, as well as offer more control to the DOT operations. “The whole point of this project is to connect those new signals that you see around town with the yellow around them, connect those new signals with our traffic operations center. The reason that we are so excited about this project is that it’s going to allow us to make changes to the signal from our office instead of from the intersection itself. The old way was each intersection or each signal was sort of like an island all by itself, so if something went wrong with the signal that we had to fix, we had to come down to the intersection, open the box, fix the problem, and then wait around to make sure everything’s functioning properly.”

According to Frye, these new systems are scheduled to come online relatively soon. “Once this new signal interconnect system goes online, we’re going to be able to do all that work from our office. We’re going to be able to monitor how the intersection is functioning from the office, and many intersections at a time, which allows us to be a whole lot more flexible in terms of what we can do with our signals for timing, and then also adjusting for things like special events. We expect that in 2022, so next year, we’re going to be able to turn on a lot of these systems. So next year is really the year that you’re going to start seeing a lot of changes in terms of timing of signals, and changes in the network as a whole.”

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