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The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) yesterday announced the start of a $120 million capital improvement project to install radio cable along 100 miles of tunnel walls throughout the underground rail system.The project is intended to improve radio coverage for WMATA and the region's first responders, as well as wireless coverage within the rail tunnels, agency officials said in a press release.Engineering and production tests are underway in a 6,000-foot tunnel between Glenmont and Forest Glen, Md., to develop project design specifications. This week, an outside expert was contacted to review the agency's design and implementation plan to "maximize the delivery of benefits and to accelerate the project schedule," WMATA officials said."We are looking for every opportunity to move this project along efficiently and to deliver incremental benefits as we complete each segment and turn it over to the telecom providers," said WMATA General Manager and Chief Executive Officer Paul Wiedefeld.Under a new agreement with the major wireless careers, WMATA workers will install the necessary cable for both cellular and radio systems at the same time. The process involves installing special trays into the tunnel walls to support the heavy, two-inch thick cables, along with relocating thousands of reflective signs currently affixed to tunnel walls.The system will be easier to maintain than the current radio system because critical equipment will be moved to where it can be accessed at all times without track outages, WMATA officials said.The project will be funded through the agency's capital improvement program.
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