(Update: Adding video, ODOT comments)
The Oregon Department of Transportation and Facebook are entering into a partnership to place fiber-optic cable along more than 30 miles of highways in Central Oregon — and in exchange, give ODOT more broadband capacity for its own future road projects, as highways go high-tech.
Kris Strickler, recently named ODOT’s new director, said under the project exchange, in the works for over a year, ODOT will provide access to highway right of way for placement of fiber optic cable, while Facebook would provide broadband capacity to the state agency.
According to issue summary of the proposal approved by the Oregon Transportation Commission last week in Sunriver, the state Department of Justice said that under state law, the exchange can proceed as long as Facebook provides ” access to fiber and services that are at least equal to the fair market value of the use of the (right of way). ”
ODOT Communications Manager Tom Fuller said the fiber optic cables are also expected to benefit automated cars in the future.
” This fiber optic cable allows us to have increased capacity for the use of data, on automated vehicles, ” Fuller said. ” Automated vehicles are in Oregon’s future, we know they’re coming, and we are trying to prepare for them. ”
Broadband capability would be installed along state Highway 31 and then north along U.S. Highway 97 to Cooley Road, then along state Highway 126 126 to Prineville.
ODOT could use the broadband capacity in a number of ways, from controlling traffic signals to communicating with drivers.
” This collaboration allows us to enhance our intelligent transportation systems, ” Fuller said. ” This involves things like real-time updates for motorist on what the conditions are up ahead, or perhaps advisory speeds for them to create mobility along the highway. There are weather sensors that we can put in place that will tell them if there are particular conditions coming up. ”
There are several possible road improvements that ODOT may explore in addition to weather sensors on highways, such as variable speed limits based on congestion levels or weather conditions.
Officials said the ODOT-Facebook collaboration would improve many aspects of transportation and broadband communication, including emerging tech such as intelligent transportation systems, improved traffic signal operations, motor carrier enforcement, connected and automated vehicles, infrastructure monitoring and the cost savings of broadband services.
The partnership involves a 25-year lease with Facebook. Before construction begins, Facebook needs to obtain the proper permits and set a schedule for the improvements.
If the partnership project is successful, it might be replicated elsewhere in the state, to improve ODOT’s broadband communications capabilities.