NEW CUMBERLAND, Pa. -- Scott Reigle spent his Friday like most other days of the week; in a yellow vest and hard hat along the side of the Pennsylvania Turnpike.
Reigle, the maintenance clerk at the Turnpike's New Cumberland office, got into his pickup truck with a "Penna Turnpike" logo and drove onto the highway. As he passed an area where construction workers were going about their job of the day, an 18-wheeled truck sped by him in the left lane.
"Here comes another big rig," Reigle says. "I'm going 55. He must be going at least 70.
"People just don't realize the jeopardy they put us workers in out here."
Scott Reigle is one of hundreds of people who work along Pennsylvania's major highways every day, be it a PennDOT or Turnpike worker or independent contractor. The Turnpike alone is currently spending $1.7 billion in construction projects across its 500-mile stretch of roads, meaning more people are putting themselves in harms way along major roads than ever before.
"I'm scared," Reigle says. "Sometimes being on this road scares the daylights out me."
Scott and his colleagues have two allies in the state Capitol. Senators David Argall (R-Schuylkill/Berks) and Judy Schwank (D-Berks) recently introduced legislation which would create a five-year pilot program to place automated speed enforcement systems in work zones across Pennsylvania's major four-lane roads.
"The goal is to save lives of construction workers and motorists alike in these work zones all across the state,” Argall said in a statement. "While this proposal cannot undo the void left in many families across the state who lost a loved one due to crashes as a result of excessive speeding, I hope this brings peace of mind to families of road crews and motorists that we are trying to change driver’s behavior, especially in these work zones."
The bill has the full support of the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, says spokesperson Carl DeFebo. He says the Turnpike has lost two workers to roadside fatalities in the last two years.
"We have an obligation to protect our workers and protect our contractors," DeFebo said. "This is an additional tool in the tool belt which will help us enhance the presence of the state police."
DeFebo describes the program as one which works similarly to an EZ-Pass scan or red-light camera. When a car drives past the camera mounted in the work zone, it will take a snapshot of the car's registration while clocking its speed. If the car is going faster than 11 miles per hour or more faster than the listed speed limit, a ticket will be mailed to the offender's address.
Senate Bill 840 was unanimously approved by the Senate Transportation Committee on September 29 and will most likely have to pass through the Appropriations Committee before being voted on by the Senate floor.