Fiber optics may line Minnesota freeway system

ST. PAUL (AP) — The Minnesota Department of Transportation says it will negotiate with a private consortium to build a $97 million fiber-optic network along the state’s freeways.
Under the proposal, International Communications Services Inc. and Stone and Webster Inc. would build the network on rights of way along 1,000 miles of freeways in Minnesota, the department said Wednesday.
In exchange for the use of the freeway’s rights of way, the state government would receive complete access to the network for free.
The network would consist of 96 strands of fiber optics, which is eight times the amount used to handle the telephone traffic between the United States and Europe.
“Literally, this project can light Minnesota up,” said Herb Lindsay, vice president of research and development at ICS, based in Westminster, Colo.
Fiber optics can transmit large amounts of data, including text, pictures, sound and video. ICS and New York-based construction company Stone and Webster want to lease the proposed network to power utilities, telephone companies and others.
States usually do not allow access to utilities on rights of way because traffic congestion may result when a pipe bursts or a line needs replacement.
But Adeel Lari, alternative finance director for the Transportation Department, said fiber optics do not require as much maintenance as water or sewer lines.