Indiana creating true 'superhighway'

The information superhighway will meet the asphalt highway in Indiana.

The state is accepting bids from companies to use the right of way along

the 157-mile stretch of the Indiana Toll Road to install a high-speed, broadband

telecommunications infrastructure. They hope to select a bidder in the fall.

Officials say it's the first such effort in the state to open up interstate

rights of way.

"The idea is that if there's access, it will benefit schools, businesses,

everybody," said Cheryl Reed, a spokeswoman for Gov. Frank O'Bannon. "We

also hope to encourage Indiana companies to integrate information technology

in their everyday business."

State officials said installing new telecommunications routes will support

broadband networking applications for state and local governments, universities,

colleges, schools, libraries and rural health networks. It also could allow

for future electronic toll-collection facilities and other computerized

services.

Reed said that rural areas along the toll road, which extends from Ohio

to Illinois across northern Indiana, could benefit technologically from

the installation.

Three state agencies — the Indiana Transportation Finance Authority, which

owns the toll road; the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT); and

the Intelenet Commission, the state's technology advisory panel — have been

working on the process of opening up the rights of way for several months.

Approved bidders will be given nonexclusive access to the right of way in

exchange for reasonable compensation, Reed said.

Depending on how the installation with the toll road proceeds, rights of

way along other interstate routes may be opened, according to INDOT spokesman

Roger Manning,

Manning said fiber-optic lines will be laid underground and will not endanger

motorists.

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