Wednesday, December 17, 2014

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Cell Phone Service Restored At Two Of Four Area Tunnels

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TWC News: Cell Phone Service Restored At Two Of Four Area Tunnels
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Cell phone service, the only lifeline for drivers under the Hudson and East rivers, was restored Monday afternoon at two of the city's four tunnels after being cut over the weekend as a terror precaution, but the city's other two tunnels will be without service for the foreseeable future.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the Port Authority shut down cell phone service in the Holland, Lincoln, Midtown and Battery tunnels in response to last Thursday's terror attacks in London.

Authorities believed pulling the plug could prevent terrorists from using a cell phone to detonate a bomb, a tactic used in last year's Madrid bombing that killed nearly 200 people.

Late Monday afternoon, the two tunnels controlled by the MTA, the Midtown and Battery tunnels, restored cell phone service. However, the PA says cell phone service at the two tunnels it controls, the Holland and Lincoln tunnels, will be out until further notice.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg has doubts about shutting off cell phones in the tunnels.

“The MTA decided to do it. I don't know whether it makes the most sense. I don't know how long they're going to keep it off,” said Bloomberg.

There appeared to be confusion among city agencies over who made the decision to shut down the cell phones.

MTA spokesman Brian Dolan said early Monday that the Police Department asked the MTA to shut off service in the Midtown and Battery tunnels. A short time later Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said that wasn’t so.

“They thought it was a prudent measure, in this age of terrorism to put into effect, but it wasn't at the request of the NYPD,” said Kelly.

Soon after Kelly spoke, the MTA said service in its tunnels was back up, saying in a statement: “There appears to be a miscommunication between NYPD and the MTA. This communication problem has been rectified.”

In fact, Monday afternoon the MTA said it is drafting a request for proposals to provide more cell phone service, this time in the subways.

The NYPD says it makes more sense to give drivers the ability to make calls in an emergency.

“It’s kind of a balancing test, and I think it’s good to be able to communicate from tunnels and the subway system, if possible,” said Kelly. “I know there’s an effort to enable cell phones to work in the subway system, and generally speaking I think that's a good idea.”

Some drivers who spoke with NY1 Monday morning say they didn't mind the ban.

“It's a necessary thing. You can never be too sure,” said one driver. “I'd rather have to yell for help than worry about somebody using that very same thing that I'm using for help to get me killed.”

“I think they should be more strict like that. It would keep things safer and make us all feel better,” said another.

“I think it's more realistic to stop bombs being set off by cell phone service, and that's more important,” added a third driver.

Law enforcement officials said the cutoff is not foolproof, because cell phone alarms could still trigger an explosion even with service shut off.
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