How much is a public infrastructure project? Putting $22 million for fiber in Yellow Medicine County in perspective

Government Technology reports on the prospective cost of better broadband in Yellow Medicine County (MN)…

A newly completed study looking at bringing broadband service to rural areas of the county calculates that it will cost $20 million to $22 million to lay the fiber optic network needed.

It’s a matter of the county’s geography and dispersed population, according to Doug Dawson, president of CCG Consulting, and Chris Konechne, project engineer with Finley Engineering. They presented the study to the County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday in Granite Falls.

Their study found that the county would need to lay fiber optic cable along 955 miles of roadway to serve 1,862 homes and businesses in the rural areas that are currently not served by broadband.

They also look at a lower cost option…

The study provided another option for the county. The consultants said the county could consider a combined wireless and fiber-optic “hybrid” system for a $5 million investment. A 52-mile network of fiber-optic cable could connect towers and reach the rural areas with a wireless system delivering 25 megabytes of service per customer, the minimum speed for broadband. Dawson described it as a less costly, first step toward eventually developing a more comprehensive broadband network.

But recognize the limitations…

And, he noted at the onset of his presentation, that while a 25-megabyte capacity would meet today’s needs, it will certainly become outdated. Since 1980, internet speed has doubled every year, he said.

I’ve said many times, there is room for fiber and wireless. Wireless is a great interim solution for rural areas and even after fiber is deployed, customers will want the mobility of wireless. You can access the feasibility study on the County web site. And I recently reported on discussions in Yellow Medicine and noticed that Farmers Mutual Telephone submitted an application to the Office of Broadband Development – so it looks as if things are moving forward.

But for some reason these numbers jumped out at me. It’s hard to put my arms around $22 million. So I wanted to do a little comparison and found some pricing (albeit from 2015) on cost of maintaining roads. The Pioneer Press reported…

How much does it cost to fix a road?

Anywhere from $167,000 to $3.7 million or more per lane-mile.

That’s to fix – not build. So the cost to build fiber 955 miles is $20-22 million. The cost to fix a road is $166 million to $3.5 billion.

And an interesting fact for the rural-urban eyes out there, here’s some info on building roads…

f the road’s substructure is in good condition, then rough pavement can be fixed by just applying a new surface. A typical asphalt resurface costs about $167,000 per lane-mile — meaning double that for a two-lane road and more if the road is wider. Concrete is sturdier but more expensive: a new concrete surface costs about $488,000 per lane-mile, according to MnDOT.

If a road deteriorates to the point where its substructure also needs replacement, fixing it becomes a lot more expensive. A full reconstruction costs about $1 million per lane-mile for a rural road, and $2.2 million per lane-mile in a town.

Because of the denser population in the Twin Cities, metro-area projects can be significantly more expensive — up to 70 percent more. That means more than $3.7 million for a lane-mile — or $7.5 million per mile for a two-lane city street.

I’m not saying $22 million isn’t a lot of money. I guess I’m just saying it depends what you do with it.

This entry was posted in Funding, MN, MN Broadband Fund Awards by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

I have a Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science. I have been interested or involved in providing access to information through the Internet since 1994, when I worked for Minnesota’s first Internet service provider. I am pleased to be a part of the Blandin on Broadband Team. I also work with MN Coalition on Government Information, Minnesota Rural Partners, and the American Society for Information Science and Technology.

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