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3 firms eye sites for cell towers

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Potential cell towers

Three companies will evaluate 61 properties owned by Allegheny County as potential locations for cell phone towers or building-mounted antennae. Some are along undeveloped “paper streets.” Among the potential sites:

North Park

Boyce Park

Settler's Cabin Park

White Oak Park

Homestead Grays Bridge, Squirrel Hill

Diaz Way, Hill District

McKees Rocks Bridge, Brighton Heights

Liberty Tunnel vent stacks, Belzhoover

155 Wooster Street, Hill District

County Health Department, Lawrenceville

2401 Bethel Church Road, Bethel Park

847 Washington Street, Braddock

Round Hill Park, Elizabeth

Deer Lakes Park

Phillips Lane, Glenfield

Route 8 & McCully Road, Hampton

Harrison Hills Park, Harrison

Amity Street (Homestead Police Dept.), Homestead

Hartwood Acres, Indiana Township (two parcels)

514 Grant Street, McKeesport

Superior Street, Scott

Helen Street, Swissvale

Belmont Street, Wilkinsburg

Liberty Tunnel north portal, Allentown

Beelen Street, West Oakland

South Park, Bethel Park & South Park Township (two parcels)

2nd St. & Iowa Avenue, Glassport

Ohio River Boulevard, Glenfield

Parkway West, Green Tree

Richland Road, Richland

Center Avenue, Ross

110 McIntyre Road (Kane Center), Ross

McKnight Road, Ross (two parcels)

Scrubgrass Road, Scott

Kane Boulevard (Kane Regional Center), Scott

Allegheny Avenue, Shaler

Clairmont Avenue, West View

Apple Street, Monroeville

Port Vue Avenue, Port Vue

Leech Farm Road (Shuman Center)

Clark Street, Duquesne

New Brighton Road, Avalon

Bluff Street, East Pittsburgh

Gillespie Road, Frazer

Bryant Road, Hampton

Private road (Harrison Hills Park), Harrison

Monroeville Blvd, Monroeville

Old Frankstown Road, Monroeville

10th Street, Pitcairn

Lucerne Avenue, Ross

Elm Street, Ross

Seavey Road, Shaler

Vogels Lane, Verona

Clairton Road (CCAC), West Mifflin

Hill Street, Wilkinsburg

South Trenton Ave, Wilkinsburg

Source: Allegheny County

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Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

Thursday, June 13, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

As more Pittsburgh-area residents clamor for data-gobbling smartphones, tablets and mobile hot spots, telecom companies are building cell towers and upgrading equipment at a record rate.

Three companies working to respond to the growing demand for bandwidth could construct new towers and antennae on as many as 61 Allegheny County-owned parcels, including vacant properties, county parks and county-owned buildings.

Jacksonville-based Parallel Infrastructure, South Fayette-based LJS Development and Houston-based Crown Communications will evaluate the sites, then market them to telecom companies for potential towers that could help the carriers fill gaps in their coverage or improve bandwidth in high-demand areas, said Lou Siyufy, president of LJS Development, on Wednesday.

Siyufy said consumers who used to settle for cellular and data coverage on the road and in their workplaces now want it at home as well.

“As long as you and I have smartphones, and we continue to do more with our phones, with apps for everything, it exhausts and depletes network capacity,” he said.

County officials said leasing county property could raise $1.9 million a year and improve access to 911 services for areas with poor cellphone service. Thirteen towers will be equipped to boost fire, police and emergency radio signals.

Amie Downs, spokeswoman for Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, said the companies must seek approval from municipalities before building towers or installing equipment.

Potential sites — 24 for LJS, 23 for Crown Castle and 14 for Parallel — are spread across the county in Boyce, Settlers Cabin, North and South parks; the Kane Centers in Scott and Ross; Shuman Juvenile Detention Center in Lincoln-Lemington; and vacant lots in Wilkinsburg, Glassport, Swissvale and the Hill District.

“We've got plenty of cellphone towers already along McKnight Road, so I don't see why they'd need any more,” said Marc Quinn, 50, who lives near two potential sites on either side of McKnight Road in Ross.

The Pew Internet & American Life Project released a report last week estimating that 91 percent of American adults owned some kind of cellphone as of May, and 56 percent of all Americans own a smartphone that connects to the Internet. That was up from 46 percent in February 2012 and 35 percent in May 2011.

The CTIA Wireless Association, a Washington, D.C.-based wireless-industry group, found that service providers added more new sites nationwide between 2010 and 2012 than they had in any other two-year period, said spokeswoman Amy Storey. There were 253,086 towers and antennae in CTIA's semi-annual survey at the end of 2010, and 301,779 by the end of 2012, she said. An estimate of the number of cell towers in Western Pennsylvania wasn't available.

The increasing demand for voice and data coverage must be balanced with resistance from people who don't want to see the antenna equipment and towers in their backyards, industry officials said.

“I've found thousands of sites, and I've built thousands of towers, but I've never found the ‘right' site — people always want it somewhere else,” Siyufy said.

Matthew Santoni is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5625 or

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