Turnpike Revving Up Revenue With Broadband


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The Pennsylvania Turnpike has nearly completed a project installing 220 miles of fiber-optic cable along the toll road in the Eastern part of the state. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that the $95-million project could yield the state tens of millions in broadband revenue.

The project has been in the works for five years and was planned due to microwave towers along the toll road having nearly reached capacity. The main fiber line runs from Harrisburg to the New Jersey border and a second line runs along the Northeast Extension. In addition, the agency has begun a similar system running from Harrisburg to the Ohio border, with estimated completion by 2026. 

According to Wally Wimer, senior engineer project manager at the turnpike, the fiber-optic cable will have eight separate channels to provide service. The agency will utilize four channels and sell space on the other four channels to outside providers. Wimer noted that many areas along the turnpike are unserved or underserved by broadband; he said the new system could fill a need or create competition. 

The agency has signed a 25-year contract with infrastructure investment group, Plenary, to market and manage the excess space, and the partners will split the revenue 50/50 with the turnpike. Plenary, in turn, has hired Tilson and Tilson Infrastructure to market the space. According to the Post-Gazette, the agency estimates that revenues could total more than $100 million over the life of the contract.

Tilson has already begun marketing the broadband space, which has access points every 2,400 feet. Potential lessees include internet service providers, wireless and wireline providers, municipalities, educational and health care networks, and large enterprises.

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