The Race to the Chicago Marathon
Every fall the Chicago Marathon draws over 1.5 million people. The City welcomes them with open arms. Restaurants fill to capacity, it is hard to get a hotel room, traffic is snarled, parking is impossible and cellular networks are stressed, especially on race day. Despite the best planning by wireless providers, these big events can throw a monkey wrench in the machinery. When the network becomes overloaded customers become unhappy and the carriers hear about it in real time. Electric Conduit Construction (ECC) has played a key role in building more capacity into existing networks. We added capacity around Grant Park ahead of Lollapalooza. This made a tremendous difference for users. Latency, the time required to retrieve data, was shortened and more people were able to make calls, send and receive data, with no lag. The system functioned as designed.
This year the route marathon route was changed significantly from past years. Just moving a couple of blocks can make the difference between a clear signal and no signal. ECC received work orders around September 6th. The Marathon launched on October 7th at 7:00 am. Our crews had to complete their work and all surfaces had to be restored to original condition. This meant that all paving, concrete, curbs, striping, landscaping had to be completed in advance of the Marathon in less than a month.
Working in any city is no picnic. The City of Chicago is no exception and there are a lot of people to keep happy within CDOT, OUC, Residents, and the Ward Aldermen. Any work involving utilities is very disruptive. Streets are narrowed, heavy equipment is brought in and maneuvers in very tight areas, pedestrian and bicycle traffic are a constant concern to our crews. We have had pedestrian, mesmerized by texting, fall across barriers and into fresh concrete. Now make the crews work 6 12 hour days under the pressure of completing directional drills, open cut trenching, removing and replacing street lights with stronger poles for small cell antennas, and you have the potential for things to go wrong in a hurry. in the middle of this build the race organizers decided to change the route again causing the crews to scramble to complete restoration work.
Fortunately our crews are very professional, they work safely and the watch out for the public. The crews used directional drilling equipment to bore over 1,300 feet and pull back conduit. Our trench crews opened up over 1,480 feet of street and placed multiple conduits of various diameters. 7,000-8,000 feet of fiber optic cable and power wire were pulled, terminated, spliced and tested. Four small cell units were mounted, connected to radios, power, fiber and tested. Here are a few email comments that were exchanged along the way:
"Had the bridge construction detour setup the day we started pushing all traffic to our work zone. Switch to 12 hour shifts to get done. Ran into buried trolley rails the last day but they pushed through to get the foundation in for Friday."
"Had to coordinate construction with Sumit who was doing a CDOT project to install bump outs. CDOT was originally not going to let us complete the work but Sumit allowed us to cooridinate with this job and a second job that was also in the way that CDOT wanted to shut down."
"Discovered that the abandoned tunnel we had to trench next to was damaged prior to us being there. Got CDOT approval to boiler plate & morter the damage in order to not shut the project down and our client being paved out."
"Joint build, had to bore 3-4". Sewer was shallow in the area which forced us to bore shallow to avoid. Did not heave sidewalk surprising but ran into rubble. Since we couldn't change our running line had to switch to trench to a portion. Ran 12 hour shifts with 4 crews to get job done."
"Restoration pushed up on us, switch to 12s to get done. Had to wait on water check to clear to cross the water main pushing our trench back. Very slim alley to trench though. Since restoration was pushed, we had to get the bore done yesterday. Ran into an old utility closet when boring. Got permission to backfill with stone, changed running line then ran into rubble with the new running line, Vern lost the pipe three times, stayed until he got the pipe in (he slept in his truck last night). Making tie ins today to get off the street by 2:00 when they are going to start milling. Mino is out there breaking out the alley apron to restore prior to paving."
The reader can see from these comments that this was a hectic, complicated, high stress job with a lot of moving parts. Our company is very proud of the can-do attitude of our skilled employees. They came through for the customer the marathoners and 1.7 million spectators - and no one will ever know it.
Hat's off and a big thanks to Mike, Tony, Hensley, Kep, Carson, Clint, Arnie, Dapra, Gabe, Schuls, Lacko Vern, rocky, and Nick for a job well done!