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Tollway Towers Soon May Sport Oil-Derrick Look

Agency board may pick open-lattice design for some cell-phone antennas along the Eastern toll road.


Toll-road officials say they have settled on a more subdued and rustic design for several mobile-telephone antennas to be built along the Eastern tollway.

The development could end a two-year battle over the look of the structures.

After rejecting a futuristic spire design that at least one toll official characterized as a "monstrosity," the Transportation Corridor Agencies board will meet Thursday to consider approval of an antenna design that resembles an oil derrick.

"What we have now is a much better design," said TCA director and county Supervisor Todd Spitzer. "Given the fact that you can't make these things invisible, this design is much more environmentally sensitive and respectful of the landscape."

Eight towers will be installed along the tollway, which has suffered from nonexistent or spotty mobile-telephone service since its opening in 1998. TCA officials hope cellular service will attract more riders and more revenue.

But even if officials approve the new design, full mobile-telephone service isn't envisioned until at least late 2001 or early 2002.

"That's if everything goes as planned," said TCA Spokeswoman Lisa Telles. "And this has been quite a saga."

The "open lattice" towers will stand 105 feet tall--20 feet shorter than the spires--and be constructed of a special steel that develops a rust-colored patina. A special TCA aesthetics committee reviewed proposals for new designs, including models that looked like water towers and telephone poles.

The rejected towers were three-sided spires designed by architect Paul Zajfen, who also designed the tollway's glass-and-steel toll booths. Zajfen's philosophy was that since no tower would blend in with the green rolling hills along the toll road, the towers should appear as distinct sculptures.

This philosophy, however, failed to impress TCA officials.

"They were grotesque," Spitzer said when asked to describe them Tuesday.

Only five of the planned antennas will have the open-lattice design, which was drawn by architect Charles Trevisan. Two of the remaining towers will appear as obelisks, and one will look like a highway-sign gantry. TCA officials had no problems with these designs.

The towers will be constructed and paid for by cellular-telephone providers, but the ultimate design must be approved by the TCA and the Irvine Co., which owns access routes leading to the planned antennas.

Although TCA officials voiced approval of the new design, officials at the Irvine Co. were more guarded.

"I think after what happened last time, folks here want to see what decision the (TCA) board makes," said Irvine Co. spokesman Mike Stockstill.


A New Look

Toll road officials unveiled a design for oil-derrick-like cellular towers along the Eastern Tollway to replace proposed spire-like antennas that were deemed too garish.

Sources: Pacific Bell Wireless, Transportation Corridor Agencies

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