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Preckwinkle, Claypool cut tech deal to boost Stroger Hospital
Politicians make nice as Cook County, CTA to share fiber-optic connection

Friday, April 13, 2012
Chicago Tribune
by Cynthia Dizikes

The strained relationship between Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and Chicago Transit Authority President Forrest Claypooltook a more cordial turn Thursday when they announced a new partnership to increase Stroger Hospital's technological power using fiber-optic cable.

But the news conference also was about a different kind of optics, affording the two politicians a chance to stand by each other in public and say nice things.

They feuded in 2010. First, Claypool wouldn't endorse Preckwinkle as she ran in the Democratic primary for County Board president, even though they both have positioned themselves as reform candidates over the years.

That fall, Preckwinkle backed regular Democrat Joe Berrios for county assessor instead of Claypool, who mounted an independent challenge that fell short. At the time, Preckwinkle said she was "not a fan of Forrest, and as I said, I wouldn't recommend him to be hired."

But Thursday, they were both full of handshakes, smiles and praise for each other.

"The CTA has stepped up to assist us in our efforts and we are very grateful," Preckwinkle offered in her address.

"Thank you, President Preckwinkle, for your leadership on this issue," Claypool said later.

Under the agreement, the county will use eight strands of the CTA's broadband fiber-optic cable, running about 3 miles from the Polk Street Station to the Thompson Center, to create a high-speed network between the hospital and the county's downtown campus. The expanded capacity will allow for faster transfer of medical records, other health information and videos between hospital doctors and administrators.

In exchange, the maintenance costs of the section of fiber-optic cable will be shared.

"In the future, fiber-optic access will help the telemedicine and cloud computing and advance research and education opportunities," said Preckwinkle, who stood outside Stroger's emergency room.

Government officials estimate that the fiber-optic cable will make the transfer of information about a 1,000 times faster. If the county were to build its own lines, it would cost $300,000 to $400,000, they said.

The CTA uses the technology for internal communications and monitoring, including fare traffic and signaling traffic. The sharing agreement would not affect that work, officials said.

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