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Fiber optic project to benefit North Bend Rail Trail

Crews dig along a portion of the North Bend Rail Trail near Happy Valley recently to install a high-speed fiber optic line along the course of the trail. It’s part of a project to build a low-latency network from Columbus to Ashburn, Va. (Photo Provided)

PARKERSBURG — Installation of a high-speed fiber optic route is expected to leave the North Bend Rail Trail in better shape than at the start of the project.

Zayo, a communications infrastructure company, announced in late 2018 its plans to build two “low-latency” fiber networks connecting Columbus to Ashburn, Virginia, and Dallas to Atlanta.

About 70 miles of the Columbus-to-Ashburn route follows along the trail between Parkersburg and Clarksburg, said Rebecca Whalen, spokeswoman for Zayo.

“Placing the line along the North Bend Rail Trail was the most feasible route,” she said. “Installation of the line will be done in short segments to minimize disruption for those who use the trail.”

Rail Trail Superintendent Paul Elliott said the work began at the trail head at Happy Valley, off West Virginia 47 outside Parkersburg, in late August. The line will be buried along or underneath the trail, through North Bend State Park, all the way to Wolf Summit in Harrison County.

Crews dig near mile marker 3 of the North Bend Rail Trail in Wood County recently to install a high-speed fiber optic line along the course of the trail. It’s part of a project to build a low-latency network from Columbus to Ashburn, Va. (Photo Provided)

“They’re pretty much digging up the entire trail and starting over,” Elliott said.

Zayo is partnering with West Virginia-based voice, data and Internet provider Citynet on the Rail Trail portion of the project.

Some people have been upset at the work being done on the trail, but Elliott said the companies “have to put it back the way it was, or better.”

Whalen said the work will do more than simply restore the trail to its previous condition. Culverts will be repaired, ditch lines cleared and gates replaced along the entire trail, she said.

“When they get done, the trail should be much improved,” Elliott said.

Crews dig along a portion of the North Bend Rail Trail near Happy Valley recently to install a high-speed fiber optic line along the course of the trail. It’s part of a project to build a low-latency network from Columbus to Ashburn, Va. (Photo Provided)

There are five or six crews working at the same time on different segments of the trail, he said. The goal is to complete the work by the end of the year.

A second contract is expected to provide for graveling of the rebuilt trail for a better, higher tread, Elliott said.

The network will increase broadband capability all along the route, Whalen said. The larger expansion is expected to provide the lowest latency between Columbus and Ashburn, as well as Chicago and Ashburn.

Latency refers to the time it takes data to be transmitted from source to destination.

“Many applications benefit from choosing the lowest latency path, and low-latency networks are built to support operations that require near real-time access to rapidly changing data,” Whalen said. “Often, the lowest latency route is that which has the shortest physical distance.”

Evan Bevins can be reached at ebevins@newsandsentinel.com.

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