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'Win-win' fiber optics lines make Utah roads safer and help rural Utahns connect

Posted at 1:48 PM, Dec 17, 2020

SALT LAKE CITY — UDOT crews are wrapping up a different kind of road construction project, this one on the information superhighway.

They’re installing fiber optic systems in two rural communities to increase internet access and connectivity and to enhance mobility and safety on our highways.

“If we can help a community and we can help the roads it’s a win-win for everybody,” said UDOT fiber optics manager Lynne Yocom.

READ: Rural school districts dealing with internet accessibility issues as kids learn from home

It’s a project that’s been on the drawing board for a while, and it’s happening now due to $30 million Utah received from the federal CARES Act earlier this year.

“We had to sit and think for a couple of days to make sure we had the contracts in place and the ability,” Yocom said. “And then we said ‘We can do this, we can do this, UDOT has everything ready and in place, let’s do it!'”

The goal is to support UDOT’s focus on building roadway, fiber optic infrastructure and providing broadband connectivity to rural communities.

That helps with critical needs like telemedicine, distance-learning and telecommuting with all of that taking on new significance this year.

READ: UDOT announces 135 projects completed statewide in 2020

“For those that don’t have connectivity to be able to have a place to go that they can get connected,” Yocom said. “Especially within these rural areas and there was a major emphasis on rural telecommunications with these Covid dollars.”

The Fiber conduit systems are being installed along I-70 in Millard and Sevier Counties and along I-84 in Box Elder County.

This will provide smaller communities with Wi-Fi hotspots and allow access to high speed internet.

“But to get I-70 across the San Rafael Swell and this whole area that had no communication, to get to I-84, to get up to Howell, it’s amazing,” Yocom said. “It is one of the most satisfying parts of my career!”

The fiber will also UDOT to install additional traffic cameras, weather stations and other sensors to help provide real time information about Utah roads in these rural areas.