The West Virginia Parkways Authority and the state Division of Highways are very close to finalizing lease agreements with Verizon to construct as many as seven cell phone towers along a 22-mile section of the West Virginia Turnpike.
“This will rid the Turnpike of that black hole where people lose their signals on their cell phones,” Parkways Authority General Manager Greg Barr told MetroNews Thursday.
The line-of-sight towers will be put between the Chelyan toll plaza in Kanawha County and the Mossy toll plaza in Fayette County. Right now cell phone connection from mile-marker 60 to mile-marker 82 is almost non-existent.
Getting towers in place has been an issue for years on the Turnpike but Barr says the agreement with Verizon is almost ready to be finalized.
“We’re real close. Basically the lease is drawn up and there are a couple of blanks to fill-in,” he said.
The lease is between Verizon, Parkways, DOH and the state Real Estate Division. The state will lease the land to Verizon, which will then build the towers. Barr says the language includes a requirement that Verizon make space available on their towers to rent to other cell phone companies. Barr says that’s a key part of the agreement.
“That’s something that we feel will encourage others to also get involved with these towers and hang some equipment,” he said.
The rugged terrain makes it almost impossible to put large towers on tops of the mountains so instead more towers are needed and they will be constructed just off the highway on the Turnpike’s right-of-way. The plan needed approval from the Federal Highway Administration.
Barr says construction could begin in April near the Chelyan toll plaza. He says the sooner the better. He says the Parkways Authority is anxious to provide the opportunity for the service.
“With the advent of the new 511 smart phone app, with Twitter, with Facebook, with GPS and cell phones in general—people need to have constant connection,” he said.