In an agreement that Comcast is calling the first of its kind, Comcast announced today that it has signed a lease agreement to use the Colorado Department of Transportation's (CDOT) fiber-optic network.

The dark fiber that Comcast is leasing from CDOT runs along Interstate 70, which serves as the primary route for some of the state's more well-known ski areas in the winter, as well as the summer tourist trade.

The agreement lets Comcast lease two of CDOT's existing single-mode fiber-optic strands along the I-70 corridor for 20 years, with rights to extend the agreement after the initial lease period.

The leased fiber runs from Denver suburb Golden across the Continental Divide to Vail and is part of CDOT's existing network, which the agency uses for high-speed communications to the CDOT business network.

CDOT uses the fiber for electronic sign message control, traffic camera surveillance for quicker incident response and verification, travel time detection, weather station monitoring and communications over digital trunk radio. The resulting information is fed to CDOT's Intelligent Transportation Systems website for use by the public, media and other CDOT partners that provide road and weather information to the public.

With the added bandwidth from CDOT's fiber, Comcast will launch advanced video, Internet and digital voice services in Colorado mountain communities including Avon, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Dillon, Frisco, Keystone and Silverthorne. Comcast expects the rollout of the new services to be completed by spring of next year.

"We couldn't be more excited about this partnership," said Amy Lynch, Comcast vice president of field operations for the mountains. "The launch of our most current technologies in Summit and Eagle counties means that we're able to provide the country's best entertainment and communications services more ubiquitously across Colorado. We thank CDOT for giving us this opportunity and are grateful for the collaboration."

As part of the lease agreement, Comcast will provide support for this portion of CDOT's fiber network with maintenance services, including weekly inspection of the network's backbone replacement of damaged or missing fiber markers and clearing and cleaning debris from network pull boxes and other access points.

The estimated value to Colorado taxpayers over the next 20 years is $14.5 million.

"We think of this as a 'big win' for Colorado taxpayers, and we're excited about the beginning of a strong partnership with Comcast," said CDOT executive director Russell George. "The agreement provides CDOT with a new revenue stream, and because Comcast also is providing professional engineering expertise and support, we're able to reallocate some of our network maintenance resources to other important transportation projects, which are critical in these tough economic times."