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Drilling under the Rock River

Published: Thursday, June 7, 2012 1:36 p.m. CDT
Caption
Workers from Midwest Underground, East Moline, are currently drilling a hole under and across the Rock River in Oregon for installation of a new fiber optic line. Photos by Chris Johnson

A project that will bring fiber optic cable to Oregon is moving forward an inch at a time.

Workers from Midwest Underground, East Moline, have equipment set up in Oregon at Second Street and Washington Street that will allow them to drill a hole under and across the Rock River.

On Tuesday morning Tom McGuire was monitoring a computer screen and his boss Travis Diehl was at the controls to ensure the drilling was proceeding safely.

"We are working on a 1,800 foot crossing in Oregon," said McGuire. "We drilled 400 feet the other day, but it can vary depending on what the drill encounters."

The hole being drilled is 65 feet under the river.

A technique called horizontal directional drilling is used to drill under the river.  Using this technique a hole can be curved and maneuver around obstacles.

Similar drilling methods are used by the oil industry.

Once the hole is drilled, the product (pipes and fiber optic lines) will be pulled from the east side of the river to the west side to finish the crossing.

Midwest Underground has been in business for eight years.  Last month, the company completed a crossing under the river in Byron for the iFiber project.

The iFiber project was developed to address the issue of limited broadband capacity, speed and service in nine counties in northwest Illinois.

iFiber is a provider of extremely high speed (1Gb) network transport services to both the public and private sector.

It provides subsidized access directly to eligible public sector organizations such as schools, community colleges, libraries, healthcare facilities, municipalities, county and public safety facilities.

The iFiber project was established in January 2011.

Construction of the $69 million iFiber Broadband Project is underway as part of the National Telecommunications and Information Agency’s Broadband Technology Opportunity Program.

It will enhance broadband technology and provide increased economic development opportunities in the region’s under-served areas.

The grant is administered by Northern Illinois University and is an Illinois Broadband Opportunity Partner (IBOP).

iFiber’s partners are working to expand broadband access throughout a 900-mile fiber network in the following counties: Boone, Carroll, Jo Daviess, LaSalle, Lee, Ogle, Stephenson, Whiteside and Winnebago.

North Second Street at the intersection with Ill. 64 in Oregon  will be closed for approximately two to three weeks while the line is installed.

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