Investing in Connectivity | Black & Veatch

Delivering the Digital Foundation in Sacramento

Forward-thinking cities across the country continue to modernize by expanding citizen services that rely on a comprehensive digital foundation. Smarter, more connected cities represent a step into the future, and Black & Veatch was tapped to participate in a digital connectivity program in Sacramento, California, that would help make this vision a reality.

Investing in Connectivity

Project Name
Digital Connectivity Program
Sacramento, California
City of Sacramento, Verizon

The City of Sacramento has invested heavily in laying the digital foundation that will eventually enable smart city solutions to thrive in the years ahead. In 2017, the city formed a public-private partnership with Verizon to bring smart city infrastructure and services to its more than 2 million residents. Running mostly on the new Verizon One Fiber backbone, Verizon’s suite of smart city solutions helps improve broadband accessibility to various communities and helps reduce traffic congestion and accidents.

The effort began with the design and installation of two transportation safety solutions to better manage traffic flow and reduce fatal incidents. The Intelligent Traffic Management (ITM) solution, a combination of in-ground and micro radar sensors, provides near real-time data on traffic capacity, speed and vehicle movement. The Intersection Safety Analytics (ISA) solution, as part of the Vision Zero initiative, uses imaging sensors to dynamically respond to real-time traffic conditions and help reduce accidents.

For both solutions, Black & Veatch performed site visits to assess constructability around existing conditions. The team worked with the city to gain access to traffic signal poles, traffic pedestals and underground conduits to develop optimized designs for proposed cable routing and equipment installation. Detailed construction drawings were then developed for permitting. The collaborative effort between Black & Veatch, Verizon and the city helped reduce cost and time associated with new conduit trenching. 

The third component of Verizon’s smart city offering was the delivery of free public Wi-Fi to 27 city parks, where Black & Veatch provided constructability, design, permitting and installation/construction services. Verizon would bring the fiber backhaul to each park and terminate at a demarcation point within the Right of Way. Black & Veatch’s scope was then to tie into this point and bring Wi-Fi into the interior of the parks.

Overcoming Challenges

The public Wi-Fi project presented a mix of overlapping challenges that impacted design and construction. To keep costs manageable, Black & Veatch’s design approach had to balance the technical constraints of the devices with the city’s preferred coverage areas within each park’s unique layout.  

The main challenge was to minimize the amount of new conduit needed for cabling to connect wireless access points with power sources from buildings, concession stands, utility rooms or irrigation pedestals. To determine how much existing infrastructure could be reused, the team engaged the subcontractor to verify the suitability of each park’s underground electrical conduit system and confirm available capacity. The team also employed a Mesh Wi-Fi network to bring coverage deep into the parks and strategically placed the access points as close as possible to viable power sources. Combining the underground conduit data with the above ground constructability assessment from the site visits, the team was able to develop designs that met both Verizon’s and the city’s needs. This in turn helped reduce development time of the construction drawings as most of the design decisions had already been made on site with the installation subcontractor and city engineers.

The benefits of this collaborative approach extended into the permit review process. The city engineers who reviewed and approved the permit applications were also the ones who had participated in the site walks and were a part of the design discussions. This drastically reduced the amount of coordination within permit review and established a more streamlined process that allowed the sites to move more quickly into the construction phase.

Verizon and the Black & Veatch team expect to complete full fiber activation at all parks by summer 2021. However, as of December 2020, each of the 27 parks is considered live (through either fiber or wireless backhaul) and are already providing free high-speed Wi-Fi to the various communities. This was a significant milestone achieved by both Verizon and Black & Veatch in helping the city fulfill one of its digital equity and economic development goals. The Black & Veatch team, through its collaborative approach, was able to successfully execute the project on schedule and on budget, while playing an integral role in the public-private partnership between Verizon and the City of Sacramento.

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