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National Grid Reminds Motorists To Watch For Work Crews

Lucas Willard

National Grid is joining with local highway officials across New York with a simple message: slow down.

At a demonstration in Saratoga County Wednesday, National Grid Upstate New York Regional Director Melanie Littlejohn says the springtime work season is here. Lineworkers are already on the roads with their reflective gear and hardhats.

“So we really want to get ahead of this and begin to just heighten awareness with the public and say please keep the men and women, who are your family members and your neighbors, please help keep them safe,” said Littlejohn.

National Grid, working with Saratoga County, set up a simulated work zone outside Hyatt Place in Malta, complete with two work trucks, safety cones, and workers with flashing stop signs. Duane Beach is a lineworker with 27 years of experience and also a safety advocate with IBEW Local 97.

“We have cones and wheeltrucks out. We have a flagger waving traffic by. This is what you would see if you were coming into one of our workzones and we were accessing our utility,” said Beach.

Distracted drivers are also a concern. Beach reminded motorists to keep their eyes off their onboard computers and smartphones and on the road.

“People can become distracted very easily, and you take your eyes off the road for one second and it could become a catastrophic event,” said Beach.

National Grid says that since 2013, there have been nearly 40 incidents involving members of the public encroaching work zones either in vehicles or on foot.

Saratoga County Deputy Commissioner of Public Works Tom Speziale said that with the warm winter, crews were out early cutting branches and clearing brush ahead of the spring work schedule. Speziale said road work will be in full swing in the coming weeks.

He said most, if not all, of the 140 county highway workers are already out in the field every day. The county maintains 363 miles of two-lane highway.

“Not just five days a week, we respond to emergencies just as National Grid does. When we have storms we’re out there in the wintertime. We’re out there 24 hours sometimes,” said Speziale.

Littlejohn says National Grid will be investing $1.4 billion in upstate infrastructure in the next few years, which means more crews out on the roads.

“They do dangerous work in dangerous work in dangerous locations so that we can avoid and continue to avoid serious accidents,” said Littlejohn.

The U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration’s National Work Zone Awareness week begins April 11th.

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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