A study highlighting how a fiber optic network can enhance communications between traffic signals and municipal facilities, such as police and fire stations, was accepted Tuesday by the Bismarck City Commission.

Taking a look at the city's existing system, KLJ's study counted 124 traffic signals and flashing crosswalk beacons. Some of the connections are via fiber, some via copper wire and some are leased through a local carrier. Thirty have no connections at all.

Of the 43 municipal facilities included in the study, 14 have connectivity through a lease with the state's ITD network, as well as Midco, at a cost of about $200,000 per year.

"Even with the signals that are connected, the communications are pretty limited. It's more of a one-way communication," said Jenny Krause, project manager of KLJ. "If there are issues, there's no two-way communication there.

"With the limited capabilities in the communication with those systems now, it's resulting in a lot of in-the-field time for staff, addressing issues we can't simply take care of back in the office," she said.

If the city were to link up all of the existing signals and 75 percent of the municipal facilities, expanding to outlying facilities, the price tag would be nearly $7 million.

The cost would cover replacing any conduit, pulling fiber and upgrading traffic signal cabinets and the controllers inside of them.

There would be a cost savings if conduit could be installed in the ground in conjunction with new construction and reconstruction projects, as a large part of the cost involves tearing up sidewalks to dig a trench, Krause said. 

There are federal dollars available to the city for such improvements, as well.

Commissioner Josh Askvig questioned if KLJ looked into other alternatives, such as wi-fi.

"Were there other alternatives looked at other than just putting fiber in the ground?" he asked.

The use of wi-fi brings up security concerns, Krause said, noting the difference in cost is minimal.

No action was taken by the commission.

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General Assignment Reporter