GOSHEN — Elkhart County officials opened two bids for the next extension of fiber optic lines, which will bring Middlebury into the county-owned network.

The project will extend underground fiber from Bristol to Middlebury along C.R. 8., building on work last year that branched westward off of the main trunk along C.R. 17. The county owns the lines and leases them to internet service providers.

“It terminates downtown in Bristol right now,” said Transportation Manager Charlie McKenzie. “This is just picking up where we left off in Bristol and continuing down C.R. 8, and terminating in Middlebury ... behind the Middlebury Elementary School.”

The bids were from Hoosierland Excavating, for $646,745, and Direct Line Communications, for $739,661. They were opened Monday during the Elkhart County Commissioners meeting.

McKenzie said the bids were in line with what the county expected, and that both companies have installed sections of the county’s fiber before. The project is being covered out of Economic Development Income Tax money.

At about eight miles, the installation route is more than twice the length of connection between C.R. 17 and Bristol, and the extra cost was reflected in bids that were opened. The work includes installing conduits and 144-strand fiber lines between the two towns. 

The project carries a completion date of Nov. 1.

The project comes after county officials approved a $2.71 million appropriation of EDIT funds to connect the fiber network to two data centers in South Bend. County Council members approved the request in April after hearing that it would create a more resilient network and open opportunities for businesses in Elkhart County.

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