While there is a move to curtail the use of cellular telephones by people while driving their vehicles due to safety, both Sprint PCS and Nextel are moving forward with plans to extend existing poles in McLean that some see as important, also due to safety. "They're providing service people want," said James "Jim" Michal, an attorney representing both cellular carriers. When drivers are using their phones and they lose a signal due to a dead area, there is a tendency to pay more attention to redialing the phone or otherwise attempting to figure out what caused the loss. Sprint PCS is looking to add a six-foot canister with three antennae inside to make a 115-foot tall pole a 121-foot tall pole. That pole is located on the Dulles Access Connector Road near Idylwood. Capacity Issue "There's a heavy volume of traffic on 267 [Dulles Toll Road] and this is an extension of the existing VEPCO transmission pole," said Michal at the Jan. 29 meeting of the McLean Citizens Association (MCA) Planning and Zoning Committee. He also indicated that due to "heavy Beltway and 193 traffic," Nextel would raise the monopole at Langley High School 10 feet from its current 82-foot height to 92 feet. McLean resident John Fredericks questioned the need for the two cellular companies to extend the height of the existing poles. "Is this a question of capacity or coverage," he asked of Michal. Coverage relates to a geographic area or range being served by a given antenna. Capacity refers to the number of simultaneous service users that can be handled at a given time. Michal said that due to the increasing volume of traffic on the roads that the coverage reaches, the extensions are necessary to improve capacity. "It's hard to determine the number of users that will benefit. We're working on getting those numbers," he said. The attendees raised little objection on Jan. 31 as neither of the cellular companies was looking to construct new monopoles. Extension vs. New "This validates an argument that was made in February of 2001 – that there wasn't a need for a CWS pole on a new location instead of the VEPCO site. Now the VEPCO pole is being extended," said MCA Planning and Zoning Committee chairman Adrienne Whyte. The Comprehensive Plan outlines recommendations that call for the co-location of carriers on existing poles first, then the use of public lands and avoid residential neighborhoods if possible. "Sprint PCS will not only use the VEPCO pole but do so in a non-intrusive manner with the canister – it's a good application," said Whyte, indicating that the Sprint PCS application would be presented as a "feature shown." A feature shown is an item that is heard by the Planning Commission without a public hearing. The Nextel application is slated to be heard by the Planning Commission on April 17. A balloon test will be held at Langley High on Saturday, Feb. 23 between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. Nextel will reappear before the MCA Planning and Zoning Committee at its next meeting, Tuesday, Feb. 26. Cost for the extensions will run about $300,000 for each company, said Michal. "I know no business that would spend that amount of money if it were not advantageous for the company's business," he said.