US 33 Smart Mobility Corridor, Phase I

State-of-the-art testing highway puts Ohio at the forefront of the smart transportation revolution

Taking a leading role in the development of intelligent transportation systems (ITS), the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) is creating a smart mobility corridor along 37 miles of U.S. 33 northwest of Columbus. The highway, as well as streets in nearby Marysville and Dublin, will be used to test connected and autonomous vehicle (CAV) technology poised to improve mobility and enhance road safety. The Transportation Research Center, the largest independent car testing facility in the U.S., and the Ohio State University Research and Automotive Center are adjacent to U.S. 33, which carries up to 50,000 vehicles a day.

The first phase of the project involved installing approximately 40 miles of underground fiber optic cable along the highway to carry data collected during CAV testing. Gannett Fleming served as engineer of record for Phase I, and worked hand-in-hand with contractor Team Fishel to meet ODOT requirements. Cable design and installation were completed in just 100 days using design-build delivery. The project also included the design and construction of a new telecommunications building at the research center.

What We Did

To meet the 100-day deadline, the team created an innovative plan to design three buildable units for the cable install and one vertical buildable unit for the telecommunications building. When a unit was complete, the client reviewed it; once authorized, construction of the unit could begin. The plan shortened the project timeline by at least 30 percent compared to traditional design methods. To further accelerate the project, the contractor participated in the review process, offering input to resolve potential problems before installation. The team used light detection and ranging (LiDAR) surveys and available Internet mapping, along with a minimal ground control survey, to design the system in the absence of existing corridor mapping. A subsurface utility engineer located existing transmission lines to avoid conflicts during cable installation.

To stay clear of obstructions, maneuver under culverts, and obtain access under existing roads on one-third of the corridor, the team bore pathways into the ground using a directional drill. A technician walking above the in-ground pilot drill head used a locator receiver box to direct the drill rig operator, allowing for greater alignment, depth, and directional flexibility during line boring. To complete the task, workers extracted the drill rods and pulled 2.62-inch conduit through to carry the cable. Cost-effective plow installation methods were used throughout the rest of the corridor, which saved approximately $1 million in project costs. At least one plow and up to three drill rigs operated each day of the project to keep it on schedule. Once the conduit was in the ground, the fiber optic cable was installed through a process called fiber jetting.

Key Features

  • Design-build delivery accelerated design and review process to shorten project timeline by 30 percent and successfully meet 100-day project schedule.
  • Boring technique enabled accurate placement of 432-strand high-capacity cable, avoiding obstacles and achieving desired depth and direction.
  • New telecommunications building facilitates command and control of testing operations.
OUTCOMES

Cable installation enables testing of smart mobility technology.

On-time delivery in 100 days keeps overall project on schedule.

Installation approach saved $1 million in project costs.