PA Turnpike Partners with Broadband Infrastructure Experts

The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission (PTC) is installing a large-scale fiber optic broadband network in the eastern part of its system to enhance its communications capacity. This network will increase bandwidth and boost connectivity between the agency’s administrative buildings and support automated tolling capabilities and other advanced telecommunications applications for improved customer safety and mobility. The 220-mile fiber optic network will extend broadband to underserved areas and generate non-toll revenue through a unique partnership with the private sector.

“This unique partnership will produce a fiber-optic infrastructure that will become an essential element for roadway monitoring and surveillance, allowing us to enhance safety and improve incident response on our system as well as set a foundation for rural broadband,” said PTC CEO Mark Compton. “It’s an important component of the PA Turnpike’s continuing efforts to move our intelligent transportation systems forward and to prepare for connected and automated vehicles to benefit not only customers and employees, but also emergency responders and neighbors.”

PTC has teamed with commercialization partners to generate revenue by leasing excess fiber-optic infrastructure to outside organizations, such as cellular network providers or other groups seeking high-speed broadband – proving that such network infrastructure can deliver parallel benefits that reduce the impacts of initial infrastructure investments. Cities and governing agencies are increasingly seeking creative, dual-purpose projects to answer the challenges posed by capital costs.

Construction began this spring along the eastern part of the Turnpike mainline from Harrisburg East Interchange to the New Jersey state line and on the entire Northeastern Extension (I-476). Completion of this section is estimated to occur during 2022. The western section is slated to be completed in 2026.

In 2020, PTC awarded Plenary Broadband Infrastructure (PBI) a long-term contract for the Fiber Infrastructure Operations, Maintenance and Commercialization Services project to operate and maintain the network and extend broadband capacity along 220 miles of the Pennsylvania Turnpike. The 25-year contract includes operations and maintenance services, as well as commercialization services for a fiber-optic broadband network. The PBI team includes: Tilson, and its asset owning affiliate, Tilson Infrastructure, a national network development and information infrastructure services firm, as the operations and maintenance contractor; and Plenary Americas as an equity investor, lead developer and financial arranger.

PBI and Tilson Infrastructure will commercialize dark fiber — infrastructure that is not yet “lit” or put into use — along the route and develop network infrastructure that will provide increased connectivity for the region. The network will enable customers including large enterprises, internet and telecom providers, cable multiple-system operators, municipalities, and educational institutions to expand their service areas and customer reach on direct, low latency routes across Pennsylvania.

“I’m excited to lead Tilson Infrastructure’s commercialization efforts as we team up with the Pennsylvania Turnpike to bring the benefits of broadband fiber — data speeds, highway safety, smart driving and internet accessibility — to travelers and unserved and underserved communities,” said Tilson Infrastructure’s Director of Fiber Business Development Ian Horowitz. “The new dark fiber provides carriers, hyperscalers, data centers, and internet service providers with the bandwidth needed to reach municipalities, universities, cell towers, poles, enterprise customers and others without the need to buy aging fiber or be faced with having the expense to build it themselves.”

“PBI is proud to partner with the Turnpike Commission to increase broadband capacity and accessibility through this innovative, long-term partnership,” said Plenary Americas Director of Project Delivery Ed Dice. “Our team is committed to providing reliable and highly responsive network services for the benefit of all Turnpike users and the broader, regional Pennsylvania market.”