Northway cell service plan in works

ALBANY The state government and environmental groups have come to an agreement to provide cell service to the Northway. Governor Eliot Spitzer announced on April 18 that his office has reached an agreement with Verizon Wireless and the five major environmental groups dedicated to the protection of the Adirondack Park on a Statement of Principles to help guide the future development of cellular phone service along the Northway (I-87) corridor. The safety of travelers along the Adirondack Northway corridor has been a paramount concern and I commend Verizon Wireless for taking the approach of a good corporate citizen and working with the Adirondack groups toward a comprehensive solution that resolves safety concerns in a manner that protects the scenic resources of the Adirondack Park, said Spitzer in a prepared statement. Verizon Wireless will construct 11 towers of varying heights, with some reaching approximately 100 feet high. The towers will be on private land and will adhere to local and Adirondack Park Agency regulations. Five environmental groups The Residents Committee to Protect the Adirondacks, The Adirondack Council, The Sierra Club, the Adirondack Mountain Club and the Association for the Protection of the Adirondack have agreed to the terms. John Sheehan, spokesman for the Adirondack Council, said the organization was generally pleased with the agreement. The only requirement Verizon must meet with regard to aesthetics is that the tower cannot be an eyesore. The APA (Adirondack Park Agency) doesnt require that they be completely concealed, but rather substantially invisible. Verizon has already met this standard in other areas of the Park, said Sheehan. Senator Betty Little lauded the move. She called it a big step in moving toward providing service. She said the policies would comply with existing APA regulations. The important thing now is, with this agreement, all parties will work vigorously in good faith, and with resolve, to site the towers and improve safety on this highway as quickly as possible, said Little. Little said shes concerned about the time frame it may take for the towers to be installed, saying that it could take between 2-3 years. She said the process needs to be expedited, or at least begin by prioritizing the most remote areas before winter arrives again. From the sounds of it, were not going to have anything next winter - I want to see something in the interim, said Little. Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward was guardedly optimistic about the plan. Sayward said having a private company do the work without state funding was the best scenario. Like Little, Sayward said shed like to see the done in stages to ensure some coverage by winter. I am very pleased that the governor was able to bring Verizon Wireless and the various environmental groups concerned with protecting the integrity of the Adirondack Region to an agreement that will bring enhanced safety services to the North Country residents, said Sayward. Now it is important that we move forward quickly so that cell phone coverage will be provided along the Northway before another winter sets in. The lack of cellular coverage on the Northway corridor has been a subject of great concern for public safety reasons. Nearly 47 miles of this heavily traveled interstate the main thoroughfare between New York and Montreal is without cell phone service. Two deaths this passed winter have highlighted the danger posed to travelers.

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