Saratoga County

Northway signs warn of limited cell service

Signs went up along the Northway in the Adirondacks on Thursday advising motorists that there is

PHOTOGRAPHER:

Signs went up along the Northway in the Adirondacks on Thursday advising motorists that there is “limited” cellphone coverage between Exits 26 and 35.

The temporary signs, printed in English and French, spell out what frequent Northway travelers know: You can’t get reception on your cellphone in northern Warren, Essex and parts of Clinton counties.

The lack of telecommunications service in the Adirondacks was illustrated dramatically in January 2007 when a downstate man and his wife, traveling the Northway on their way back from Montreal, skidded off the Northway in North Hudson.

The man died from exposure because his wife was unable to contact police on his cellphone. Police discovered the couple the next day. The man’s wife survived the ordeal.

Last week, the Adirondack Park Agency approved two more permanent Verizon cell towers that will be built this spring along the Northway in the Adirondacks.

Three other Verizon cell towers, proposed for the so-called “dead zone,” were approved in December. These towers also will be built next spring or early summer.

Gov. Eliot Spitzer said Thursday his office has been “working diligently with state agencies, elected officials and telecommunications carriers to bring commercial cellphone coverage to this section of the Northway.”

“While those efforts continue, the new signs will alert motorists that cellphone service may not be reliable through the most mountainous stretches of Interstate 87 [Northway],” Spitzer said in a statement released by the state Department of Transportation.

Carol Breen, a DOT spokeswoman, said the new signs were put up Thursday north of Exit 26 in Schroon Lake in the northbound lanes and south of Exit 35 in Keeseville in the southbound lanes. The stretch is about 45 miles.

Breen said the signs are for travelers who may be using the Northway for the first time and don’t know cellphones don’t work well in the Adirondacks.

“We are still looking at all our options,” Breen said about the possibility of temporary cell towers being established this winter along the Northway.

“Even temporary solutions take time,” Breen said.

State Sen. Betty Little, R-Queensbury, has been advocating since last year for portable cell towers to be placed along the Northway this winter.

Daniel MacEntee, a Little spokesman, said Thursday the senator continues to push for locating at least two cells-on-wheels (COWs) in the “dead zone” this winter.

Independent Towers of Albany has proposed locating a COW in the area near Northway Exit 29 in Essex County and another cell antenna on a new public safety building in the town of Lewis, MacEntee said.

“I called the company today, but they haven’t gotten back to me,” MacEntee said.

These portable cell towers apparently also need APA approval before they can be placed in the 6 million acre Adirondack Park.

Breen of DOT said there are currently 40 operable emergency call boxes located along the Northway in the more remote stretches of the Adirondacks — 20 in the northbound lanes and 20 in the southbound lanes.

“They do work now,” Breen said about the emergency phone call boxes. She said there may have been problems with some of the phones in the past.

The emergency call boxes, which are found along the shoulder of the Northway every two miles, connect the caller to the state police.

Pay telephones are also available at the four rest areas in the Adirondacks: Schroon Lake (between Exit 27 and 28), High Peaks Welcome Center (Exits 29 and 30), Lincoln Pond (Exits 30 and 31) and Lewis (between Exit 32 and 31), Breen said.

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