Project boosts cellular, camera access in Big Cottonwood Canyon

Posted at 9:49 PM, Mar 26, 2014

SALT LAKE CITY -- If you've driven up Big Cottonwood Canyon recently, you may have noticed the new poles that line the road.

Those new poles provide cell service and monitor traffic and weather up the canyon.

If you're not looking for them, you may not notice they're there. But the new antenna poles up Big Cottonwood Canyon were made possible by a public and private partnership between the Utah Department of Transportation and international wireless infrastructure provider Crown Castle.

Lynne Yocom, UDOT Fiber Optics Manager, said it was a mutually beneficial arrangement.

"They needed cell phone connectivity up the canyon, we needed cameras up the canyon to help provide information for the travelers,” Yocom said.

The $6 million project installed nearly 15 miles of fiber optic cable and 18 antenna poles in the canyon. UDOT officials said the benefits to the hundreds of thousands of people who live, work, and play in Big Cottonwood Canyon were long overdue.

"We also needed to encourage that cell phone coverage for 911 service up that canyon, public safety, to work with our radio dispatch and our snow plows, police vehicles, everything," Yocom said.

Currently, Verizon is the only carrier to provide service up the canyon. Other carriers like AT&T, Sprint, and others should get service when they either upgrade their networks or coordinate with Crown Castle.

We caught up with visitors up the canyon.

"The second that I get into the canyon I don't have service anymore with Sprint,” Kathryn Thomas said.

As an out-of-towner, Thomas adds, "I'm not familiar at all with any of the ski resorts and I've been driving around, so it would be helpful if I could just access my phone and figure out where I am in the canyon."

The antenna poles and subsequent service were music to Alex Smith's ears.

"It was probably mid-season here driving up, and I realized my Pandora was working the whole way up and it was pretty sweet," he said. Pandora is smart phone application that allows users to stream music over a device’s data connection.

It's a new convenience he and other canyon goers are appreciating.

"You have more accessibility to what's going on in the canyon, for sure,” Smith said.

UDOT and Crown Castle are partnering again for a project like this up Little Cottonwood Canyon. That will begin this May and is expected to be complete around October of this year.

UDOT has partnered with another private company to build this kind of infrastructure up Ogden Canyon. That canyon has this communication capability up to the dam, but UDOT officials hope to provide this service through the entire canyon at some point.

UDOT is also considering a project like this for American Fork Canyon. They tell FOX 13 News they will need to secure a private partner due to the cost.