Press-Republican

October 27, 2013

Verizon to close Northway cell-service gap

KIM SMITH DEDAM
Press-Republican

ELIZABETHTOWN — The final three Verizon cell-phone towers are set to close a gap on Interstate 87 next year.

Starting in 2008, Verizon Wireless started building what was planned as a 15-tower system through the Adirondack Park portion of that stretch of the Adirondack Northway.

Verizon spokesman John O’Malley said the final 15-mile stretch of Northway will gain coverage in 2014.

“The gap loosely starts on the south side, by High Peaks rest area (in North Hudson), and goes up to Exit 31 in Westport,” O’Malley said. 

“We have three towers planning to close that gap. One is down near Underwood (Hunting Club) in North Hudson. The application has already been filed with APA (Adirondack Park Agency) with that one. Once we get approval from APA, then we can move forward with scheduling construction. 

“The next two are still in leasing stages; we are working with potential landlords.”

MOTORIST DIED

The cell-phone towers are built on small lots of private land situated next to I-87. Verizon Wireless pays an annual “rent” to use the land for its towers, requiring power lines, an access road and a hard-line telephone connection.

“We’re working through that part now. We expect to file both of those applications with APA in the fourth quarter 2013,” O’Malley said. “We expect, if all goes well, we could have all those three sites on the air in 2014.”

The final three towers will complete what was a five-year plan to add cell-phone service along a vital 65-mile stretch of New York interstate between Albany and Montreal.

Concern reached a boiling point in January 2007, when motorist Alfred Langner died trying to escape from his car, which had slid off the roadway and became pinned under trees. The accident occurred in frigid winter weather.

His wife, Barbara, had tried unsuccessfully to use her fully charged cell phone to call for help.

Mrs. Langner survived despite frostbite and hypothermia from spending some 24 hours in below-freezing temperatures.

The outcry from local officials here and in Brooklyn spurred state officials to begin working together to create a realistic design-review process for cellphone towers in the Adirondack Park.

WORKING WITH APA

In retrospect, O’Malley said, the telecommunications company’s relationship with APA has been good.

In October, APA staff reports show a Notice of Incomplete Permit Application was filed for a 55-foot tower in North Hudson.

The tower is designed to carry a 12-panel array.

“They (APA) are moving things along when they receive the applications,” he said.

FRANKENPINES

Some of the towers in the park have been designed to look like pine trees, often white pines, and garnered the nickname “Frankenpine.”

“It’s one of those things where you can’t disguise towers for every single site,” O’Malley said. “It adds cost and is site-specific.”

The APA had also taken steps to established a co-location rule, encouraging telecommunications companies to share structures, once built.

“Co-locating on towers is a common practice in the industry. If a cell tower works for us and will fit within the network and the distance required, that’s our first choice,” O’Malley said.

Verizon had always intended to improve coverage along the gap now eyed for completion, he said.

“It was just a time-consuming process to make it happen. In 2008, everyone got together and said, ‘Let’s make this happen,’” O’Malley said.

“Public safety was a primary concern. It’s been a team effort.”

Email Kim Smith Dedam: kdedam@pressrepublican.com