Cable System Quickly Rerouted After Baltimore Train Wreck

July 27, 2001 Routing 24,000 feet (7,315 meters) of communications cable beneath a major city is a sizeable task. Doing it in 36 hours borders on the impossible. Yet that’s exactly what Metromedia Fiber Network and Bechtel accomplished following a serious train wreck in Baltimore.When the CSX Transportation freight train carrying hazardous chemicals derailed and caught fire in an old tunnel under Howard Street on July 18, fiber-optic cables serving several large carriers were damaged. "It was immediately apparent to us that we would not be able to access our fiber in the tunnel anytime soon given the situation with the fire and hazardous materials," said Christopher Moore, director of operations for MFN in Baltimore.
Although backup systems kicked in immediately, MFN was determined to restore full redundancy to its network as quickly as possible. So it called on the expertise of Bechtel Telecommunications.

Working with MFN, contractors, and city officials, Bechtel helped manage the process of rerouting cable through a maze of conduits accessible by manholes beneath the center of the city. Although a large portion of the recovery route already had been set up for possible use, workers had to clear blockages in at least four locations—a task that included digging up the street and rerouting the line.

Bechtel’s team of James Munroe, Dave Katz, and Larry Boatright were part of a group that oversaw the restoration, working 36 hours without rest starting early on Thursday. By 7 p.m. on Friday, all the new cable was in the ground. "This was one of the best owner-Bechtel-contractor collaborative team efforts I’ve seen," said Katz.

The effort underscored Bechtel’s commitment to its customers. Since April of 1999, Bechtel Telecommunications has been providing program and construction management and construction services for a buildout of MFN optical networks in targeted metropolitan areas.