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Q: Why does the tower on the WMTV (Ch.15) property on the Beltline and the large tower on Mineral Point Road near the Beltline sometimes have red flashing lights and at other times white strobe lights?

A: It's all about visibility, according to Steve Zimmerman, chief engineer at WKOW (Ch. 27), which leases space on the Madison Community Tower on Mineral Point Road.

The 1,423-foot tower (including antenna) uses sensors that can change the lights from white strobes during the day, to less intense strobes at twilight and to red flashing lights at night.

When it was constructed in 1995, the Federal Aviation Administration pushed for the Madison Community Tower, which is 31 feet shorter than the Empire State Building in New York City, to be equipped with white strobes 24 hours a day.

But officials with the University Research Park, which owns the land and built the tower, convinced the FAA to allow for the current lighting arrangement so it would be less noticeable to neighbors.

The tower, which has an elevator for maintenance, hosts a variety of other broadcast and emergency communication equipment including antennas for WHA television and radio, WISC (Ch. 3) and WMSN (Ch. 47), Dane County and Madison.

The tower at WMTV, built in 2004, is actually owned by Acme Communications, owner of WBUW (Ch. 57). WMTV owns the land for the tower but leases space on the tower along with radio stations WORT-FM, WWQM-FM (Q-106) and WZEE-FM (Z-104), said Tim Weeden, WMTV's chief engineer.

Like the tower on Mineral Point Road, the 1,299-foot tall (including antenna) Beltline tower also has different colored lights and strobes depending on the time of day.

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