Death on the Northway
I felt particularly bad after reading about the death of New York City man who froze to death after his car went off of the Northway last week. He and his wife were driving home from Montreal around 1 a.m. Thursday when the incident happened. The wife reported she couldn’t get cell phone reception in the area, and they were left stranded.
I’ve driven that road dozens of times to Montreal. In my younger days, I would leave Rockland after work or college around midnight Friday and be at my cousin’s house by 6 a.m.
I always wondered what might happen should I break down in that deserted stretch. I had heard that those call boxes on the side of the highway haven’t worked for years. And traveling through there with a cell phone makes no difference.
Perhaps now that might change.
Anyway, here’s an Associated Press story I came across this afternoon on the wire.
Northway death renews calls for cell phone towers
By MARK JOHNSON
Associated Press Writer
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) Ã¢â‚¬â€ The death of a Brooklyn man trapped in his car in the Adirondacks has sparked renewed calls for greater cell phone coverage along remote stretches of the Adirondack Northway.
Several lawmakers are backing a plan to set up three 100-foot cell towers and four 75-foot towers, all temporary, at highway rest stops. The renewed calls follow 63-year-old Alfred LangnerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s death from hypothermia after driving off a remote area of Interstate 87 on Thursday. Langner and his wife Barbara were unable to get out of the car and were unable to call for help because of a lack of cell phone coverage.
They say the highwayÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s scenic views have to take a back seat to safety.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“YouÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re talking about a stretch of highway that can be very dangerous,Ã¢â‚¬? said Republican state Sen. Betty Little, who represents six northern New York counties. Ã¢â‚¬Å“This is a tragedy, but a bigger tragedy would be if we donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t accomplish something because of it.Ã¢â‚¬?
Little said she planned to meet with staffers from Gov. Eliot SpitzerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s office and SpitzerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s homeland security chief, Michael Balboni, about the issue this week.
The trailer-based towers were proposed two years ago as part of a plan that also included the emergency roadside call boxes that became operational in December. The phones went dead on Jan. 1, 2000 Ã¢â‚¬â€ one of the rare Y2K failures in the nation.
Environmental groups have long opposed 100-foot towers, saying they would spoil the landscape of a sparsely populated area of the Adirondack Park and violate scenic easements that govern construction in the area.
They also say the plan would leave Ã¢â‚¬Å“darkÃ¢â‚¬? spots without coverage.
Even if lawmakers change the scenic easement law to allow the towersÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ construction, they would still be subject to lengthy reviews by the federal Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Transportation, said John Sheehan, a spokesman for The Adirondack Council.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“WeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re getting aggravated with the fact that we get this proposal thrown up in the air that doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t make any sense,Ã¢â‚¬? Sheehan said.
SheehanÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s group supports a state police plan approved in 2003 by the Adirondack Park Agency that would replace the call boxes with a series of 38-foot cell towers. He says that plan would eliminate all dead zones while preserving scenic views.
The plan fell through for lack of interest from cell phone providers.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“It was the state police that felt the responsibility to fix the problem and they found a rather workable solution,Ã¢â‚¬? Sheehan said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Of course, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s such a good idea that no one wants to do it.Ã¢â‚¬?
Little, however, said the plan was faulty because the towers would not be effective helping people like the Langners who go off the highway.
Republican Assemblywoman Janet Duprey of Peru said she believes the state can act quickly to get the towers set up quickly.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Is it going to take away beauty? ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a sacrifice we have to make,Ã¢â‚¬? she said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“We canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t delay. Government can move when it has to move and I think this is one of those times.Ã¢â‚¬?
Barbara Langner, 59, was listed in fair condition Monday at Fletcher Allen Health Care in Burlington, Vt.