West Des Moines Digital Enterprise Program

conduit sticking out of ground

West Des Moines Digital Enterprise Program

Creating High-Speed Broadband Connections Across an Entire City

As it envisioned the community it wanted to be in the future, the City of West Des Moines set an ambitious goal of fast, reliable broadband access for all residents and businesses within the city.

Wanting to reach all of its more than 37,000 addresses (businesses, homes, apartments), the city determined it needed a municipal open access conduit network that stretched across the city of nearly 50 square miles. Broadband service providers would then be given the option to lease space in the city-owned network, rather than the more usual method of relying on individual service providers to install their own conduit to their chosen areas. Altogether, more than 5 million feet of conduit will be placed in the city in about two and a half years.

Designing in Cooperation with Providers

The West Des Moines project is not the first open access conduit network, but it is the first open access conduit network that is being built in cooperation with a tenant. As planning for this $50 million citywide effort began, Google Fiber approached the city with a proposal to offset the cost of the conduit network by becoming the “anchor tenant” and guaranteeing future lease payments to the city. In return, the network is built with Google’s design standards incorporated. Without the on-staff expertise for such a project, the city hired HDR as its owner’s agent and program manager to assist in the administration and management of the network’s planning and design.

HDR employee standing next to reel of conduit

HDR’s team provided technical expertise during negotiations with Google, facilitated the development of preliminary engineering documentation including a needs assessment and basis of design, and completed preliminary and final design of approximately one-third of the overall network infrastructure. During construction, we are overseeing the work of two additional design engineering firms, compiling a survey of the as-builts into a master GIS file and assisting city staff in managing the overall construction. When supply chain issues restricted the ability to obtain materials, for example, we helped identify other suppliers and develop alternative solutions to keep the project on time as much as possible.

Smart City Preparations for All

The 110 miles of conduit network will prepare the city for continued smart city capabilities that empower and enhance the quality of life for its citizens, including smart water meters, adaptive lighting and autonomous vehicles. The communications network was designed with these future uses in mind. In addition to residences and businesses, connections are included at parks, trails and other city facilities in preparation for future smart city initiatives including smart parking.

Importantly, the new communications network will reach areas that have been traditionally underserved by existing infrastructure. This includes rural areas and historic areas, where it’s expensive or complicated to build. By providing conduit that multiple providers can use to deliver service, the city enabled the supply of connectivity to traditionally underserved areas. When the project is complete, all citizens will have access to at least one high speed internet provider.

Customized Data Management and GIS Dashboard

Map on dashboard of conduit installation locations

Organizing and managing a citywide design effort is a massive data undertaking. To streamline the effort, our geographic information systems experts wrote a custom script that could import and export design files into Google Fiber’s custom GIS database. Our GIS team created a custom app for consultants and field inspectors that allows them to add real-time data from the field, keeping every member of the team up to date on project status. Contractors also have access to the design data through a separate app built on the same underlying database.

The updates from the field feed into a custom dashboard that streamlines inspections as well as approvals for conduits and vaults. The entire project team, including the city, other consultants and Google Fiber use the system to see status and create custom reports from the dashboard. Once the project is complete — scheduled for late 2023 — the city will be able to use the data and dashboards for continuing asset management.

conduit sticking out of ground
City of West Des Moines

West Des Moines, IA
United States