Over the past few weeks, we examined how the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) was planning on releasing broadband internet to not only rural areas, but the United States as a whole, connecting millions of people to the information superhighway. This week, let’s take a dive into what that could mean for the future of our infrastructure system in America.
Technologies such as smart pavements, which are capable of charging electric vehicles, Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS), which are used to send information and communicate important data, and vehicle infrastructure integration, which is a series of technologies linking vehicles to their surroundings, all utilize broadband.
According to the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT), approximately $65 billion will be used on broadband infrastructure. Our coverage over the past few weeks has gone over the funding America will see in order to achieve full connectivity to fast, reliable internet. But what does that mean for our highway system?
Broadband and the Road
Currently, some states are better equipped than others to roll out broadband infrastructure along highways. These highway corridors would effectively use dig-once policies that reduce the amount of construction along the same rights-of-way (ROW), according to Government Computer News (GCN). Broadband infrastructure is crucial to our modern world, and our roadways provide an easy way to deliver connectivity.
Pennsylvania is one such place that is already equipped to handle broadband on their highways. According to the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission (PTC), they’re in the middle of constructing a large-scale fiber optic broadband network to enhance its communications capacity. The PTC is tasked with providing communications and connectivity for land mobile radio, internet, voice, and data between its buildings, tolling points, and roadside devices. A fiber optic communications network is needed to accommodate future needs resulting from all-electronic tolling, intelligent transportation system device growth, and connected and automated vehicles.
The Future of Vehicles
Electric Vehicle (EV) charging stations are an integral part of the IIJA. The goal is to get more EVs on the road and provide more charging corridors across the United States. New charging stations demand broadband infrastructure. According to the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT), networked charging stations require connection to the internet through cellular or wired broadband service to enable payment, access management, and usage monitoring. However, EVs aren’t the only vehicle that requires broadband to work safely.
Autonomous Vehicles (AVs) need to be connected to broadband to be utilized safely on the roadways. The South Jersey Transportation Authority (SJTA) received $8.7 million earlier this month and plans to use the funding to transform the Atlantic City Expressway into a smart and connected corridor using cellular “vehicle-to-everything” technologies. Acting Federal Highway Administration Administrator Stephanie Pollack said, “The South Jersey Transportation Authority project will use advanced technologies to support future connected and automated vehicles.”
Smart highways have been discussed for about a decade now, and it’s becoming more of a reality as time goes on. The whole premise is to make our roadways safer, having more communication between our cars, the roadways, and the drivers.
According to Forbes staff writer Rudy Salo, broadband quality affects multiple aspects of modern life, including transportation. "Better broadband capabilities affect highway operations, including through applications centrally managing signal systems, variable speed limits, and cameras that improve incident response and timing, among others."
As states start to use the funding from the IIJA Broadband Programs, the implementation of smart highways will become more common, making it easier for Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS), roadside assistance, and personal vehicles to become connected to the highway, ensuring a safer, easier, and more reliable drive.
The unveiling of broadband on our highways is still some years off, and with many areas unequipped to handle broadband connectivity, some places won’t see the implementation for even longer. However, lawmakers and officials need to prepare our roadways to ensure citizens are safe and our roadway system is upgraded for the future. If you’re interested in more information from the IIJA, stay tuned next week’s installment in our ongoing series, and catch up on our previous IIJA columns here.
Sources: USDOT, GCN, Forbes,