Upgrade to wireless network in CTA subways could be OK’d next week

Written By By ROSALIND ROSSI Transportation Reporter Posted: 07/10/2014, 01:00pm
Array CTA Red Line Subway Station. State and Jackson Streets. A New Zealand woman chased a robber off the Red Line train at State and Jackson and onto the streets of the Loop after her phone was snatched on March 17. Police caught the suspect and located the phone with Apple's Find My iPhone technology. Scott Stewart~Sun-Times

A one-year project to upgrade erratic wireless communication in the CTA’s 22 miles of underground tunnels could begin as early as November if an $18.9 million contract for the work is approved next week.

The CTA on Thursday announced that Aldridge Electric has been selected to perform the underground cellular conversion from a 2G to a 4G network after a two-part bidding process that began last year.

The 4G upgrade should prevent spotty reception in the CTA’s 22 miles of Red and Blue Line tunnels and provide more robust support of today’s wireless data needs. The current cellular infrastructure dates to 2005, before most smartphones, tablets and social networks were introduced, CTA officials said.

The conversion also should enhance communication among CTA workers and emergency responders in an emergency, noted CTA President Forrest Claypool in a news release.

In the same release, Mayor Rahm Emanuel hailed the new 4G upgrade as “part of my committment to modernize our transportation system, which will boost ridership, bolster our long-term regional economic growth and lead to a more enjoyable ride for commuters throughout our neighborhoods.’’

The total project is pegged at $27 million, but the CTA is “aggressively seeking to partner with private-sector entities” to cover all or part of the tab, according to the CTA news release. The CTA currently owns and licenses its subway cellular network to six major wireless providers, generating $1.8 million in annual revenue.

If approved at the CTA’s July 16 board meeting, work would begin in November and last a year, according to CTA officials. No disruption to service is expected during the project, they said.

Email: rrossi@suntimes.com

Twitter: @rosalindrossi

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