The 40,000 acres of Thruway and Canal system property throughout New York State is now being viewed by the Authority as rich in tower-site opportunities for the wireless industry. To that end, the folks at the Thruway Authority have done a radical re-invent and changed the way they work with wireless providers interested in using the Thruway for new tower construction.
They’ve streamlined their procedures with a goal of creating a business- friendly cell tower construction, and the associated management approval process. The result is the potential for a true public private partnership in that they recognize the need for speedy approvals, reduction of paperwork, and elimination of most pre-reviews for equipment modifications on carrier-owned towers. In short they are expressly interested in working with the industry.
Forget about what you knew as the past hurdles. The new application process for either new construction or co-location on carrier-owned towers begins in the Authority’s division offices and is initiated by a carrier’s single point of contact (“POC”). For the construction of new towers, the POC needs to indicate, specifically or generally, the location(s) of interest. Authority staff will assess the viability of the location to make sure a tower in that location would be compliant with the provisions of the State Environmental Quality Review Act (“SEQRA”), not interfere with the maintenance or operation of the roadway, or cause any significant concerns from local residents. Feasible locations will be quickly reviewed and an occupancy permit granted within only a few months.
It’s worth noting that in 1998, the Authority made a SEQRA determination of non-significance for up to 150 cellular towers on the Thruway Right-of-Way property (except for I-95). This allows the Authority or its permitees to deploy their structures in a shorter period of time. Overall, there are 39 towers on the Thruway ROW. (I-84 is no longer included in the Thruway ROW). Of the 39 towers, 15 are owned by the Authority and 24 are owned by wireless carriers.
Given that the Authority has not completed an environmental review relative to the New England section of the Thruway (I-95), each applicant seeking new-tower construction within that corridor must conduct an individual environmental assessment and issue a determination of significance pursuant to SEQRA. This also applies to new-tower requests on Canal Corporation property. In either of such cases, applicants should allow for additional processing time.
Applicants are well-advised to designate a POC to interact with the Authority to get through the approval process. Remember a partnership works both ways. If any of NYSWA’s members are interested in contacting the Authority for new tower sites, co-locations, or technology upgrades, please contact its designated cell tower program manager, Bob Kossowski, at (518) 436-2785 or through e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.