Area drivers know well that the intersection of Diehl Road and Eola Road is one of the most congested intersections on the far northeast side of Aurora.
But they might not realize that underneath all that vehicle traffic is one of the most congested intersections in America on the information super highway.
There are at least 23 cables beneath the ground there, and the city of Aurora wants to add one more large piece of conduit capable of carrying several cables.
The prize is to get Aurora’s OnLight Aurora fiber optic network from where it currently stops on the southwest side of the intersection, in front of Cyrus One, which handles data for the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, to the southeast side.
Mike Baker, optical network engineer for Aurora’s Information Technology Department, said that way, OnLight Aurora can connect to Naperville’s fiber optic network, as well as DuPage’s.
The city already has one connection with Naperville because the two cities share emergency communications systems. The tie-in at the southeast side of Diehl and Eola would be a backup.
In addition, Aurora wants to serve three to four private business clients by crossing the street. The city has signed non-disclosure agreements with the clients, agreeing not to reveal who they are. But one of them is likely Scientel Solutions, Inc., which is building its new corporate headquarters across Eola Road from Cyrus One.
“I’m trying to get to the southeast corner,” Baker told aldermen. “The existing fiber stops in front of (Cyrus One), so I want to get fiber at that corner.”
But to do so, the city’s IT Department was asking to spend $178,137, a price arrived at after competitive bidding through the Kane County bid on Fiber Optic Support Services.
Martin Lyons, the city’s chief financial officer, said using the Kane County bid meant it was “a competitive process with multiple responders.”
But Ald. Richard Mervine, 8th, said past practice was to have the client pay the bills for extending the fiber, or to cover the costs with grant awards.
“It’s never been the responsibility of the city before,” Mervine said.
Baker said he wants to build a large conduit under the intersection capable of handling several cables. That way, if the city needs to cross the intersection again, it already will have the conduit.
“This is a way to make OnLight Aurora succeed,” he said.
But aldermen decided to send the request on to next week’s Committee of the Whole meeting — where the entire City Council can discuss who should pay for the connection — without a recommendation.
The city’s Legal Department is researching if the council can hold such discussions in closed session, because of the non-disclosure agreements with the companies.
Meanwhile, Ald. Edward Bugg, 9th, said that if the city can find an alternative funding source — whether it’s a grant or a deal with any of the private fiber clients — that would be “a good way to go.”
“If we have a revenue source to help fund this project, I think we need to do this,” he said.