CDOT installing fiber optic cable to make Highway 24 ‘smarter’

Colorado Department of Transportation crews install a fiber optic cable along Highway 24 on Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2019.

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) - Colorado Department of Transportation crews are installing 17 miles of fiber optic cable along Highway 24 between Colorado Springs and Woodland Park to improve technology and make the road safer for drivers.

“The fiber optics project is part of CDOT’s Smart Mobility Plan, a first of its kind, which is part of a five to 10-year initiative for statewide technology deployment,” said Mark Andrew, a CDOT Region 2 program engineer, in a news release. “This fiber project is the foundation for increased traffic monitoring, real time communication to traveling public and emergency vehicle communication technologies.”

CDOT said the crews will be installing the underground cable on the shoulder, so there should be minimal traffic impacts.

“Anyway we can, we’re going to try to work on the shoulder. There will be an occasional lane closure here and there, but those will be not very often, and they’ll be on the off-peak hours,” said Cameron Emick, a CDOT project engineer.

He said drivers should expect to see crews working from about 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. through September.

Emick compared the cable to high-speed internet for CDOT. Right now, CDOT can only see snapshot pictures from its traffic cameras along Highway 24. When the cable is live, the traffic cameras will be able to be live streamed.

“We use those to monitor the roadway better, especially during traffic or construction or emergencies,” Emick said.

He said the cable will also help CDOT connect to the message boards along the highway better.

“I think it’s a big help for safety for drivers,” Emick said. “You’ll get those messages a lot faster out to the public and a lot more reliable messages. There’s a lot of stuff going on with the flooding that we’ll get alerts from now, and we’ll post advanced warning for that. So it’s really just giving everybody advanced warning to slow down and keep an eye out for anything that’s going on on the roadway.”

Since the beginning of February, crews have mostly been working on Highway 24 between 31st and Eighth streets. Soon, the work will start moving up Highway 24 toward Woodland Park, where there will be less room for crews to work on the winding roads.

“Keep it slow, and give us the courtesy,” Emick said as a reminder to drivers. “Pull to the next lane over if they can. It just helps everybody feel a little more comfortable while we’re out there. Just be paying attention, especially where it’s tight through the canyon. We want to have as much space as we can.”

CDOT said the fiber optic cable is the “backbone” for vehicle-to-everything technology, which is being installed on Interstate 25 between Monument and Castle Rock, through what’s known as “The Gap.” V2X technology can communicate road conditions and traffic hazards to specially equipped cars.

“Interstates will be the first roadways to have the technology,” CDOT said in a statement. “Then, if funding is available, additional roadways will move in that direction. No estimated timeline for this yet.”

CDOT is working hard to get the project finished on time.

“We tried to get most of the construction done before the summer really hits and causes a lot of backups since a lot more people are driving up to Woodland Park in the summer,” Emick said. “But also, we wanted to kind of keep away from the weather as much as we could.”

The project is expected to cost $2.5 million. Emick said the fiber optic cable should go live in October.