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Fiber Optics On Railroad Rights-Of-Way


D. I. O'Callaghan, VP Constr., SP Telecom, San Francisco CA

Fiber Optics Background

Approximately 40 percent of the 100,000 miles of fiber optic lines in the United States are located along
railroad rights-of-way.

Railroad rights-of-way were chosen by railroad engineers for many of the same reasons that they are being
selected for fiber optic routes. Those reasons include: ease of construction, directness, and their link to major
market locations throughout the United States. Fiber optic construction does not materially impact the railroad
right-of-way. Railroad rights-of-way have limited access and afford better security for fiber optic systems than
do alternative right-of-way choices.

Railroad operations are dependent on communication systems. Historically the railroads have always been
involved with communications. The Pacific Railroad Act, signed by Abraham Lincoln in 1860, authorized the
construction of a railway and telegraph system from the Missouri River to the Pacific Ocean.

In 1983 US Sprint built its first fiber optic line on Southern Pacific right-of-way. During the balance of the
1980s, communication companies rapidly constructed fiber optic networks throughout the United States. Fiber
optic lines are still being constructed but not at the rate that occurred during the 1980s. The fiber optic networks
are being completed. Redundant routes are being built to increase the reliability of the networks. Loops are
being built in metropolitan locations. Mexico is starting the construction of a two-year program to construct a
nation-wide fiber optic network.

Fiber optics provide greater capacity, security, and efficiency than microwave and satellite systems. The fiber
optic cables are three-eighths inch in diameter. They typically contain 16 to 144 fibers. Each fiber is the
approximate thickness of a human hair. The number of circuits depends on the number of fiber pairs and the
type of laser equipment utilized. Some fiber optic lines carry 200,000 circuits. Because of the security of the
fiber optic systems, sensitive military and government traffic is carried. Individual fiber optic lines carry as
much as $100,000 per minute in revenue.

Communication companies pay for railroad rights-of-way as they would for other private rights-of-way. Public
rights-of-way including the highway systems are available at no cost to the communication companies.

Because of the size of the capital investment, which is in excess of $100,000 per mile, long-term leases are
negotiated with the railroad. A typical prepayment for a 20-year ten foot wide non-exclusive easement could be
$4,000 to $8,000 per mile and may include limited use of the communications capacity by the railroad.
Payments are either annual or prepaid at a fee equal to the discounted present value of the annual payments.
Leases are generally 20 years in length or longer.

Organization Reaction of the

Railroad Industry to Fiber Optics

I am interested in the railroad industry's various approaches to meeting the fiber optic needs of communications
companies. The organizational approaches vary depending on the railroad, the amount of fiber optics involved,
the railroad's business needs, and its personnel. There is a spectrum of organizational approaches that have been
utilized. They vary from a typical real estate department emphasis to the creation of multi-disciplined
departments or subsidiaries focusing solely on fiber optics issues.

Regardless of the organization, the affected departments are communications, engineering, real estate, contracts,
signal, bridge and building, maintenance of way, and operations. The focus of the organization will change over
time depending on the following activities:

1. Negotiations for additional projects

2. Construction activity

3. Miles of operable systems

4. Relocations

5. Recording of easements

6. Employee awareness programs

7. Management of capacity

Right-of-way Selection

The decision process for utilizing a railroad right-of-way includes the communication company studying
alternative costs and benefits. For example, a parallel highway right-of-way will not have a right-of-way fee;
however, construction costs may be higher than constructing on a railroad. Another criteria is security of the
route. Railroad routes are less prone to damage by backhoes. Fiber optic systems and railroad facilities are less
likely to be relocated because of urban development.

Construction Costs
Placement Costs
ITEM (Material not
Bridge and structure $ 40 per foot
Directional boring $100 per foot
Plowing using a cat $2 per foot
Plowing using a rail plow $4 per foot
Trenching $10 per foot
Railroad flagmen $250 per day
Work trains $3,000 per day
Road and embankment bores $40 per foot
Additives for rock $30 per foot
Burial in streets $75 per foot

Placement costs for a fiber optic line constructed using a cat plow and not requiring trenching, rock work,
structure attachments, directional bores, work trains, or flagmen will be $2 per foot.

Placement costs for a fiber optic lines in city streets will exceed $75 per foot. Typical placement costs vary
between these extremes depending on the terrain and the construction techniques.
A number of railroads have master agreements with major communication companies. These agreements reduce
the time required to negotiate agreement on specific railroad rights-of-way because the business decisions have
already been addressed.

Design Criteria

Communication companies have design manuals and standards for construction of fiber optic systems. There
are similarities between the systems built by the various companies and minor differences. Some companies
favor manholes versus hand-hole boxes. Other companies prefer direct buried cable instead of flexible conduit
systems, and still other companies choose rigid conduit systems. Some companies use three kilometer reels for
cable, others use six kilometer and even 12 kilometer reels.

Railroads have established their own design criteria for fiber optic placement or developed lists of items of
concern that are furnished to the communication design engineer. Ideally, a trip is made over the route with the
railroad's engineering department representative and the communications company design engineer. During the
trip design criteria for the specific route is set.

The railroad's design criteria will differ for different routes. There are different concerns for a branch line with a
200 foot right-of-way of high property value than for a high density railroad line with plus 40 million gross tons
annually. The overriding criteria in the first case would be placement of the fiber optic lines to permit future
property development. In the second case, the fiber optic line will be placed so that construction techniques and
subsequent operations minimize interference with railroad operations. If the railroad is operating at or near
capacity, an option such as using a rail plow may be prohibited. In either case the alignment should be kept
within a specified operating corridor.

Design Review

Construction plans showing the railroad right-of-way and the placement of the system are then prepared and
reviewed by the railroad departments including bridge department, signal department, communication
department, division engineers and the respective roadmasters.

Pre-established design guidelines for alignment, bridge attachments, repeater sites, and embankment bores
simplify and speed up the review process. An efficient review is made utilizing a hi-rail vehicle and
concurrently checking the construction drawings. Personnel involved in the hi-rail review should include the
division engineer and the respective bridge supervisors and roadmasters and the communications engineer.

The issues that need to be considered in reviewing plans or in setting design guidelines are:

The railroad's future capital plans, track relocations, future grade separations, acceptable alternatives to bridge
attachments, bridge renewals, and possible real estate sales. Even though future projects may not be completely
defined, the communication engineers can make provisions to minimize future relative costs by taking the
proposed projects into account.

In addition to the hi-rail review an office review is required by the railroad's real estate department, bridge
engineer, signal engineer and communications superintendent. Reviews must be quick and effective. Standard
contract language provides for automatic approval in 30 days if objections aren't stated.

A separate review process is used for repeater sites. This review is simplified by establishing guidelines.
Review should be onsite with a real estate and engineering department representative. A set of valuation
drawings for the route should be brought on the review trip. The communications company will want a location
with good access and power. The systems being built now typically have repeater sites spaced at 25 miles.
Spacing of repeaters is critical but generally they can be moved one-half mile. A group can review 200 miles of
sites in one day. Concurrence on a specific site needs to be reached by the communications company, real estate
and the operating department representative (engineering department) before driving to the next site. After this
review the communications company can do the necessary civil design work for the specific repeater sites. Site
drawings are then prepared for permit documents, bid documents and final railroad approval.

Alignment Guidelines

1. Keep alignment within a specified operating corridor

a. Within 45 feet of main track in rural areas

b. Within 20 feet of main track in urban areas

2. If there are existing longitudinal easements, select an alignment adjacent to the easement to avoid
encumbering both sides of right-of-way.

3. Design alignment to allow possible future longitudinal uses of the right-of-way.

4. The alignment should be consistent.

5. Select alignment to minimize loss of market value of right-of-way for other uses.

6. Consider access and surveillance needs. However, if there are parallel roads or streets, don't damage the
market value of the property. Move alignment closer to the track to provide for development.

7. If there are maintenance roads on the right-of-way select alignment adjacent to maintenance road.

8. Determine locations of flooding, scouring, slides, and unstable embankments.

9. In congested areas, utilities have to be located prior to selecting a tentative alignment.

10. Identify choke points and install additional conduits.

11. Avoid alignments that force communication company employees to foul the track during maintenance

Structure Attachment Guidelines

1. Don't attach to railroad structures unless it is necessary to do so.

2. Don't attach to timber structures because of fire risk and the likelihood of repairs or replacements to the
structure in the immediate future.

3. Don't attach to hand rails to avoid damage from loose loading or dragging equipment.

4. Pick attachment locations that are not prone to derailment damage.

5. Design attachments that don't conflict with future bridge maintenance.

6. Design attachments to avoid drift cleaning operations.

7. Avoid attachments to upstream side of bridges.

8. All hardware is galvanized or stainless steel.

9. Develop standard attachments so that approval can be on an exception basis.

Construction Issues

1. Develop a basic railroad safety training program for contractors.

2. Require warranty items in contracts for clean up of right-of-way.

3. Plan on additional work for the following year to correct locations where plow line or trenches have settled.

4. Have a mechanism for preventing damage to railroad facilities.

5. Develop a mechanism to report damages and to capture repair costs.

6. Assign a duly authorized railroad engineer to the project.

7. Develop guidelines for approving changes in construction drawings.

8. Organize construction activities so that flagmen requirements can be minimized.

9. Require or assist contractor in obtaining an effective communications system. This will reduce flagman

10. Typical problems:

• Contractor changes his mind after flagman is called.

• Flagman isn't available or isn't called.

• Contractor is working in too many locations.

• Pole line, signals, and other railroad facilities are being damaged and not reported

• Brush is not being removed.

• Cable is placed when culverts are silted and sufficient depth isn't obtained.

• Drainage is blocked.
These problems can be managed by assigning qualified railroad representatives. Retired maintenance of way,
signal, and bridge supervisors have returned to work for short periods to manage and inspect fiber optic
construction projects when engineering department forces are not available.

Call Before You Dig

1. Start an employee awareness program regarding the existence of fiber optics in the railroad right-of-way.

2. Place fiber optics information in track charts and valuation drawings.

3. Use your railroad's call-before-you-dig number or the state's One Call Number.

4. Modify right-of-entry agreements and licenses to include notification of call-before-you-dig centers.

5. Require the communications companies to maintain their markers.

6. Establish a program of notifying communication companies of derailments, washouts, fires, hazardous

spills, earthquakes, construction projects, earthwork, fire guarding, brush removal, contractors working on
the property, and railroad employee digging on the right-of-way.

Whereupon there was a video presentation

Mr. Butler: Thank you, Dan. You answered everything we had in our minds and to show our appreciation, on
behalf of the Roadmasters I would like to present you with this certificate. (Applause)

President Cossel: Before we take a short break I would like to remind each of you here and especially the
REMSA members that immediately after the recess we are going to have a presentation on the problems that we
are now encountering with concrete ties. I think it's beneficial for everyone, especially REMSA members, to be
in attendance immediately after the recess. We'll reconvene here in ten minutes.


President Cossel: At this time I would like to introduce Keith Nordlund who will present our next speaker.

Mr. Nordlund: The next special feature for today will be presented by Bob Gregory of CN Rail on the subject,
"Concrete Tie Rail Seat Abrasion-Conditions and Solutions on CN Rail." Bob Gregory is currently manager
production for Western Canada, with headquarters in Edmonton, Alberta. Bob commenced his career in the
engineering department of CN in 1961. In the second half of the 1960s he took a leave of absence and enrolled
at the University of Saskatchewan and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in civil engineering and is
now a member of the Professional Engineers Association of Saskatchewan. Since then he has held a number of
positions including roadmaster, track and roadway engineer, system engineer production, regional engineer
maintenance of way and now, manager production Western Canada. Bob's current duties include the
investigation of concrete tie abrasion and repair methods and so is well qualified to speak on this subject. Bob
will be happy to respond to questions following his formal presentation. Please welcome Bob Gregory.