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New Microwave Telecommunication System In Service

Blue Ridge Parkway

National Park News

Blue Ridge Parkway has announced the completion of a base project to rehabilitate/replace its ten-site, 469-mile, microwave telecommunication system. 

Funding for the project ($7.5 million) was provided through the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), and the Department of Interior (DOI) via a public auction of radio frequencies that were previously utilized by the Department of Interior.

 This multi-year, multi-partner project: 

  • Provided the new system with self-healing loop ring network architecture redundancy, both internally and via T-1 voice and data circuits;
  • Provided improved data and voice through-put in the 7.125-8.5 GHz microwave frequency band (44 MBs/sec) and 99.999% microwave path reliability;
  • Maintained and/or improved land mobile radio (LMR) coverage following site transitions;
  • Provided new towers designed with 20% additional loading capacity, along with integrated halo-grounding systems;
  • In concert with DOI mandates, actively supported site co-location with other agencies;
  • Provided for a brand new parkway dispatch operations communications center; and
  • Provided for full connectivity with the DOI ethernet gateway in the future

This project, managed by Southeast Regional Office, was made possible through a joint venture that involved partners from OMB, DOI, NTIA, Denver Service Center, NPS-WASO Budget Office, US Fish & Wildlife Service, the NPS CIO’s Radio Program Division and representatives from the NPS Information Technology Office, NPS Office of Property and Space Management, the US Forrest Service , AT&T Government Solutions, and associated subcontractors – the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation, National Park Concessions Inc., Blue Ridge Broadcasting, Sinclair Broadcasting, North Carolina State Highway Patrol, North Carolina State Property Office, Virginia State Highway Patrol, Stewart County Planning Board, Appalachian Power Company, Smart Builders Inc., and ECO Panels Inc. 

Through co-location agreements, primarily with the Virginia and North Carolina State Highway Patrol communication offices, the park was able to shift tower and backup facility maintenance responsibilities to the highway patrol at five of the ten locations. 

At all of the locations, uninterruptible power sources and backup power generation systems have been installed, which will provide emergency power to keep the system fully functional during power outages. 

In partnership with the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation and the Virginal State Highway Patrol, additional funding was provided to establish a new microwave and LMR site that provides enhanced coverage of the northernmost 30 miles of the parkway, which had suffered from a lack of radio system coverage. 

In addition to providing enhanced LMR system communication capability, the new system was designed with the capacity to allow the park to use the microwave backbone to transport video and other computer network related data. 

Additional short haul microwave links, at remote park visitor centers and district offices, are currently in the planning stage to further take advantage of this magnificent voice and data technology that has been made available to Blue Ridge Parkway.


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