The Illinois State Toll Highway Authority embarked upon a $12 billion capital program in 2012 to provide northeastern Illinois with a state-of-the-art transportation system designed to relieve congestion, improve mobility and reduce pollution across the Midwest. To link the new electronics and power systems, more than 1 million feet of high-density polyethylene (HDPE) conduit and cable-in-conduit (CIC) was used to protect fiber optics and power cables for the Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) and highway lighting. Among other benefits, drivers now receive roadway information and traffic conditions in real time.
Named Project of the Year for the Power and Communications Division of the Plastics Pipe Institute Inc. (PPI), it won the honor for the conduit manufacturer and PPI member company, Blue Diamond Industries LLC of Lexington, Ky.
According to PPI, the use of HDPE conduit and CIC can reduce costs, speed installation and provide a long-life protective housing for electrical power and telecommunications cables.
The United States Department of Transportation states that ITS improves transportation safety and mobility and enhances American productivity through the integration of advanced communications technologies into the transportation infrastructure. ITS encompass a broad range of wireless and wireline communications-based information and electronics technologies.
Northern Illinois is one of the largest inland ports in the nation, and the Illinois Tollway system is a primary freight route that carries more than 270 million tons of freight annually. The work, including ITS, will alleviate congestion in the Chicago area that costs commuters $4 to $7 billion every year
All the tollway systems include ITS technology. Installation of dynamic messaging, closed circuit cameras, traffic counters and automatic tolling enhances safety and reduces delays, resulting in considerable savings for commuters. In addition, Amber Alerts, first-responder response times, weather event warnings and potential evacuation scenarios enhance safety and security.
On several of the projects, 12 distinctly colored 1¼-inch fiber optic and two, colored 3-inch power conduits were laid along the right-of-way. The conduits serve the cameras and tolling and provide for future broadband along the tollway right-of-way. The extra conduits provide the flexibility to add smart features as they become available in years to come.
HDPE conduit was chosen because of its long available lengths with no joints, ensuring a watertight, secure installation. Fiber cable can be easily installed in empty conduits for future expansion. The electrical lines were installed by Hecker and Company of Wheeling, Ill.
“Open road tolling is one of the most popular changes on our roadways,” said Lance MacNevin, P. Eng., director of engineering for the Power and Communications Division of PPI. “The goal is to eliminate toll booths, which opens up the flow of traffic. This type of system, as well as all the other ITS components, requires fiber optic cables and power lines that must be installed properly with a high degree of cost effectiveness and be able to be protected for many years. HDPE conduit and CIC both have the properties and the ability to provide a solution for both goals.”
Typical applications include power utilities, telecommunications, CATV, SCADA, FTTH, ITS highway lighting, and other underground utilities. Premise (Riser and Plenum) conduit has specific characteristics and flame retardant ratings for use as nonmetallic raceways in buildings.
The conduit was installed using a variety of methods including horizontal directional drilling, plowing and laying in open trenches.
The Projects of the Year program is held annually by PPI to recognize the use of plastic pipe in exceptional applications.