Washington Gas’ Communications Tower

It’s been over a year since we first reported that Washington Gas was planning a communications tower for its Nebel Street property and, this week, we learned that they have cleared the last measurable hurdle on the project.

Washington Gas plans a 145′ communications tower, built of galvanized steel, for the center of its property on Nebel Street.  The tower will strengthen communications within the company’s fleet, particularly in times of emergency when a dedicated network is crucial.  The County has approved the project – a final layer in a series of approvals – and now Washington Gas will pull building permits and start construction within the next 30 days.

Learn more about the history of this project by reading our posts from April 2013 (click here), January 2014 (click here), and March 2014 (click here).

Updates on Washington Gas Fire and Communications Tower

The latest meeting of the White Flint Downtown Advisory Committee was a busy one.  In addition to discussion of road projects, Fire Chief Steven Lohr was present to recap the emergency response to last month’s event at the Washington Gas property on Nebel Street.

As Chief Lohr described, three employees were at the multiple-bay vehicle repair facility in the pre-dawn hours of February 12th.  When they heard a “popping” sound, they suspected a natural gas leak and rushed to open bay doors and turn off heaters but the gas ignited before they could do so.  Luckily, all three employees self-evacuated from the scene and were not harmed.

Fire and rescue resources were dispatched at 6:11am and arrived at the scene less than four minutes later to find heavy black smoke and a dangerous scene.  Multiple combustibles, like natural gas and tires, were mixed with a steel-bar joist structure, known for failing very early in a fire.  Also, icy conditions that morning caused initial challenges in safely deploying water lines.  But, the fire department maximized the resources available along Nebel Street by utilizing three different hydrants and a heavy water hookup, as well as a compressed air foam pumper – a relatively recent investment by the county that proved particularly useful here.




Both Images from Chief Lohr’s Presentation to the White Flint Downtown Advisory Committee

Chief Lohr continued by noting that the goal of Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service is to respond to any emergency within 8 minutes.  While they’re still working toward this goal in some pockets of the county, it’s comforting for us here in White Flint.  The Chief went on to say that MCFRS is working hard to reduce their need to respond at all by actively engaging the community in emergency prevention techniques.  Thanks to Chief Lohr and Assistant Chief John Dimitriadis for taking the time with us this week – and for the work they and their colleagues do everyday.

We have another update regarding the Washington Gas land.  As we’ve discussed, Washington Gas has proposed a 145′ communications tower to be constructed in the center of the Nebel Street property.  Earlier this year, we shared that Washington Gas was exploring other sites away from White Flint for their tower.  We learned this week that such a search was unsuccessful and that Washington Gas will resume the process for approvals for construction on Nebel.  Washington Gas tells us that they expect to submit their final request to the county over the next few weeks.  We’ll share more as we get it!

Updates on Woodglen Drive and Washington Gas Tower

Back in April of last year, we shared that Washington Gas was planning a 145 foot tall communications tower that would sit in the center of their industrial property on Nebel Street, not far from where new residential high-rise buildings are planned.  At that time, there were several approvals that were necessary before construction commenced but we’ve not heard any updates since then.  Learn more on the background of the project by clicking here.

We checked in with Washington Gas last week when we realized that no apparent progress had been made on the project.  Washington Gas tells us that the county has asked them to look at alternative sites and determine whether another might suit their needs.  No word, yet, on what the result of that process will be but we’ll keep you posted.

Also, in August, we told you about improvements planned by the county’s Department of Transportation along Woodglen Drive.  Specifically, the plan was to install a shared-use path and bike lanes stretching from the trolley trail to the terminus of Woodglen.  These would be extended to metro (and, hopefully, beyond) as properties along the way redevelop.  Learn more about the plan’s details by clicking here.

At that time, construction of the full project was slated for Fall 2013 but nothing has happened as yet.  So, we checked in with MCDOT for an update and learned that the project was delayed while community concerns were considered.  The delay caused the project to miss the construction season before winter but, all things being equal, it’s better to hash these things out before ground is broken.

The shared-use path proposed for the west side of Woodglen, at 8-feet wide, would have required the removal of some trees and also created some pinch points at utility pole locations.  MCDOT and a technical design team are looking at this piece again and will keep the community apprised as they move forward.  The on-road bicycle facilities, including the bike lane and sharrows, will move forward as planned.  When we learn about any community meetings or a construction schedule, we’ll post them here!




Washington Gas Plans Communications Tower on Nebel Street Property

As Bethesda Now reported last week, Washington Gas is planning a 145-foot communications tower in the center of their property on Nebel Street, at the edge of the White Flint sector.  The primary purpose of the tower is to improve Washington Gas’ communications, particularly in times of emergency.  They are also open to leasing space on the tower to at least two cell providers.

When this project was announced at this month’s White Flint Implementation Committee Meeting, a ripple of concern moved through the attendees so I spoke with Antonio Ancona, the engineering consultant designing the plan, to gather more information.  As noted at the meeting, Washington Gas’ land is zoned as Industrial, so they can build this kind of tower as a matter of right after an abbreviated approvals process.  The tower will be a free-standing monopole and is not expected to have any illumination, either from the ground or at the top.  The final say on lighting, however, comes from the FAA.  Mr. Ancona is not familiar with the redevelopment of the White Flint Sector, and has not visited the site itself, but feels strongly that, unless the tower is in your backyard, you won’t notice it.  And, once you’re 1,000 feet away, it becomes part of the background.

I asked Mr. Ancona whether radiation from the pole is a concern and he confidently said, “no.”  The poles emit very little radiation, not much more than we experience in daily life, and the majority of it comes from a directional dish at the top of the pole.  Though Mr. Ancona was not aware of the mixed-use plans for the surrounding properties, and accompanying high-rise buildings, he assured me that the negligible radiation emitted from the tower will not penetrate building walls and reminded me that these towers are part of our lives now.  Cell service is crucial to everyday life and having reliable service requires saturation of these towers.

 The approvals process may take anywhere from a few months to a year.  At this time, the FCC and FAA are looking at the plan.  The FCC is looking at the surrounding network for conflicts; the FAA is looking at how a tower of this height might impact flight paths (none expected).  The plan will then come to the County for approval.  We will keep you posted as we learn more.