Staying Connected-January 2009 Interchange
WyoLink's statewide radio system will keep people and agencies connected.
To the average person, the 150-foot-tall structure in the Wind River Reservation looks like a typical communications tower.
However, it’s much more. It represents cooperation, communication and Wyoming’s commitment to safety.
The Winkleman Dome tower is one of 57 that will be built throughout Wyoming as part of WyoLink, a statewide radio system that will enable agencies to communicate within their own departments and with other organizations in and outside of their own jurisdictions. The system will be used by agencies such as the Wyoming Highway Patrol, WYDOT, local law enforcement, first responders and other federal, state and local entities.
At the Winkleman Dome site, state officials worked with the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone tribes to get a tower built on their land.
“The tribal members were very cooperative, and they were very excited to have the tower there,” said Robert Wilson, WYDOT Telecommunications program manager. “We approached the tribes and told them we would like to put a tower up there. We said it would benefit everyone. The tribes helped expedite the paperwork through the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs.”
The Winkleman Dome site, which is outside of Riverton, also was crucial to the overall WyoLink system because it connects the other towers in that area. Without it, the other towers wouldn’t be able to work properly.
“That site was selected because we needed a place halfway between Copper Mountain, which is near Shoshoni, and Windy Ridge, which is near Dubois,” said Marty McCoy, WyoLink support manager. “Winkleman Dome is in the middle of the reservation.”
WyoLink, a state-funded initiative, came to fruition after almost a decade of study, support-building and design work. It’s the product of a cooperative effort involving numerous local, state and federal agencies. Oversight is provided by the Public Safety Communications Commission, which is comprised of representatives from 17 agencies.
WYDOT became involved because it was looking to update its old analog microwave radio system to a new digital microwave radio system. At about the same time, the state Legislature wanted to see a new statewide system that connected everyone.
“In 2001, the state Legislature tasked WYDOT to lead the Public Safety Mobile Communication Plan effort, with the vital oversight of a steering committee from twelve organizations. This produced a shared statewide plan,” said Wilson. “WYDOT’s Telecomm Program was then told to carry out the plan. WyoLink was established within Telecomm in 2004.”
Although the old radio system had 25 towers, those will all be replaced with the new towers.
“The old towers aren’t strong enough to support the new microwave and two-way radio antennas,” McCoy said. “The new tower design is more stable.”
Each of the new towers are wider at the bottom and narrower at the top, giving them more stability and better resistance against the elements. The towers are equipped with microwave dishes that are six to eight feet in diameter, and two-way radio antennas that are each 20-feet tall.
Each tower takes about a month to build. WYDOT finds the best places for the towers, leases the land and prepares the area for construction. After that initial work, the tower is built.
McCoy said all 57 towers should be built and ready by 2010 or sooner. By the end of 2008, there were 42 towers completed.
Although the towers should all be completed by 2010, WyoLink will be usable ahead of that schedule which means that WYDOT could use WyoLink for primary radio communications statewide by next winter, Wilson said.
“Each agency can use it for day-to-day operations without interacting with anyone else,” Wilson said. “But if something big happened and they needed interagency help, they will now be able to talk to each other. WyoLink brings interoperability to the table.”
Currently, District 1 has been trained and is using the system. Once officials see what issues, if any, there are, usage will expand west on I-80, where there are already towers in place and ready to go. After the system expands westward and is in use, then WyoLink will expand northward.
Story written by Aimee Inama, Public Affairs assistant.