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New York News

Transportation Officials Ask Travelers To Watch For Work Zones Ahead Of Summer Season

A press conference to ask drivers to be wary of work zones was held Wednesday in Clifton Park
Lucas Willard
/
WAMC
A press conference to ask drivers to be wary of work zones was held Wednesday in Clifton Park

New York State transportation officials gathered at an Adirondack Northway rest area this morning to remind motorists of the dangers of highway work zones ahead of the busy travel holiday weekend. 

The site of the press conference was the Clifton Park rest area near Exit 9 on the Northway, not far from where a southbound truck last month struck a bridge on Sitterly Road.

With a busy summer travel season predicted as the pandemic winds down, officials want to get the word out about work zone safety.

You might guess that during the pandemic, with fewer commuters on the roads, there’d be fewer accidents in work zones, but it seems like the opposite is true.

Brian Turmail, spokesman for the Associated General Contractors of America, cited results of a new survey to better understand incidents in highway work zones. 

“70 percent of the contractors we surveyed told us that they’ve had at least one vehicle crash into their work zones over the last 12 months. Now that’s higher than the national average of 60 percent,” said Turmail.

The theory goes that with fewer cars on the road in the Northeast over the last year, commuters have driven faster – including through work zones.

New York State Department of Transportation Commissioner Marie Therese Dominguez urged people to slow down.

“Now as we emerge, as New York emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic, more people are getting on the roads and continuing to travel at higher rates of speed through our work zones,” said Dominguez. “Just last month during Work Zone Awareness Week, which is a national effort, two of our New York State DOT workers were seriously injured in a crash that took place in one of our work zones here on Interstate 87, not very far from this location where we’re at today.”

Over Memorial Day weekend, state transportation officials will be suspending highway construction, but work will resume as normal next week ahead of what’s expected to be a busy summer travel season.

To illustrate the dangers of speeding in work zones, New York State Thruway Executive Director Matthew Driscoll pointed to a smashed up traffic attenuator struck by a distracted driver.

Driscoll said maintenance workers face close calls on a daily basis.

“In fact, there’s been more than 10 work zone crashes involving maintenance vehicles on the Thruway over the last year alone. Now, mind you, all of our vehicles with their bright, flashing, yellow hazard lights, were on.  Just last month, a driver entered a work zone on the Thruway in Schenectady, striking one of our maintenance vehicles narrowly missing our crew. Luckily no one was injured but seconds earlier and I’d be telling a very different story,” said Driscoll.

There are some legislative solutions being sought, such as a bill that would allow speed cameras – similar to a red light camera – to be installed in work zones to catch speeding motorists. Groups like the Associated General Contractors say more police at work zones could also help.

But the ultimate responsibility, they say, rests with drivers. Again, AGC’s Brian Turmail…

“If you can wait 15 months to take a trip, you can wait a few more minutes to get to that destination to save a life. So stay off the gas, put that phone down, and just take it easy when you’re in a work zone.”