Fiber network planned to run alongside California high speed rail

5 November 2015 by Steve Blum
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At least the fiber will be fast.

California’s high speed rail project is supposed to connect San Francisco to Los Angeles (well, maybe Burbank) with 200 mile an hour trains in 2029. The entire system, which is planned to extend 800 miles and include Sacramento and San Diego, would be completed some time after that. The first operational segment – location still undecided – is slated to start running in 2022. That’s assuming it’s actually built and the current schedule holds. Neither are guaranteed at this point.

But whenever and where ever it eventually appears, the high speed rail line will include conduit suitable for fiber optic cables, which will be made available to other users. That’s according to Rachel Taylor, an attorney with the California High Speed Rail Authority. She spoke at a energy-water-telecoms workshop organised by the California Public Utilities Commission last week.

Taylor said that two fiber guideways will be installed along the route, one to support rail operations and the other for third party use. No business model has been determined. Options include installing dark fiber and leasing it out, much as BART does in the Bay Area, or just selling conduit space. Like BART, access to the fiber will be restricted to pre-built access points. “You can’t get into our dedicated right of way, so that’s why there are access points designed into it”, Taylor said.

An openly available dark fiber route between the Bay Area and LA, via the San Joaquin Valley, will be a valuable asset for economic development along the primarily rural rail corridor, and it’ll be welcome competition to the long haul fiber routes that already run north and south. When – if? – it eventually arrives.