Motorists Urged to Slow Down, Stay Alert in Pa. Turnpike Work Zones

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The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission (PTC) is stressing to motorists to slow down when you see orange cones and traffic panels. The PTC plans 62 roadway and bridge construction projects for 2014, representing an investment of $1.3 billion in the toll-road system. Highway maintenance activities that necessitate patterns will also be abundant, starting with the repair of pot holes this spring that have formed as a result of a brutal winter.

“With all of this activity, motorists will be operating vehicles nearby men and women — turnpike employees and contractors — who are mothers and fathers, daughters and sons,” said Turnpike CEO Mark Compton. “So our message today is simple: Be alert and obey work-zone signs. Most work-zone accidents are caused by distraction and speed.”

Just last week, two turnpike maintenance employees were injured in two separate accidents. Fortunately, they were both in trucks equipped with attenuators, which are devices designed to absorb impact; however, both men needed medical attention. Over the last 12 months, 27 attenuator trucks on the turnpike were struck by speeding and distracted drivers.

“One of the two employee injuries occurred last week near Somerset when a trucker took his eyes off the road to grab a drink from his cup holder, hitting the back of a turnpike maintenance vehicle,” Compton said. “Our employee was treated at the hospital and thankfully was able to walk away from that incident with bumps and bruises. But imagine how it could have affected his wife and children if his injuries were far worse.”

To help keep the public aware of the consequences of unsafe work-zone driving, the PTC is once again teaming up with the State Police to activate “Operation Orange Squeeze” during National Work-Zone Awareness Week (April 7-11).

Captain Gregory M. Bacher, commander of Pennsylvania State Police Troop T (the unit in charge of turnpike patrols), warns motorists that in addition to conventional methods, troopers will also be monitoring work-zone speeds in an unusual manner again this year. Troopers will be inside construction vehicles running radar in work zones with another trooper waiting outside the work zone to pull over and cite offenders. It’s called “Operation Orange Squeeze” and Troop T is already putting the plan in motion.

“Motorists won’t know where or when troopers will be in construction vehicles, so they need to always obey the posted speed limit and travel with headlights on in active work zones,” Capt. Bacher said. “Fines for certain traffic violations, including speeding, are doubled in active work zones. The State Police will have zero tolerance for unsafe and aggressive work-zone driving.”

Over the years, 33 Pennsylvania Turnpike employees lost their lives while performing their duties with the commission — many of these tragic incidents occurred in work zones.

“Please don’t make it 34,” Compton stressed. “Safe driving is a choice, and we want drivers to understand that there are very real, very tragic consequences when the wrong choice is made.”

To learn more, visit www.paturnpike.com.

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