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Don’t make a deadly mistake in a work zone on our highways: Editorial

Posted 4/4/18

Lou Carotenuto is the foreman for a Pennsylvania Department of Transportation paving crew in Lancaster County.

Last year, according to the PennDOT website, he and his crew were finishing a …

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Don’t make a deadly mistake in a work zone on our highways: Editorial

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Lou Carotenuto is the foreman for a Pennsylvania Department of Transportation paving crew in Lancaster County.

Last year, according to the PennDOT website, he and his crew were finishing a patching operation. He was just about five minutes away from finishing the day’s work and heading home for the weekend, and was standing on the closed lane of the road where the patching had been done.

As he was working near the center of the road, raking the loose asphalt from the patch, the other side of the road was open to traffic, allowing motorists to get by the operation, the website says. A flagger permitted a pickup truck hauling a horse trailer to drive through the work zone.

“I was close to the middle of the road when I heard one of my crew members yell, ‘You’re going to get hit!’ That’s when it happened. I saw the pickup truck with wide mirrors and just missed it, but the trailer it was hauling was wider than the pickup. The wheel of the trailer grabbed my knee and pulled it down. The next thing I knew there was a wheel track over my pant leg and knee. The driver kept going,” according to the PennDOT website.

Carotenuto’s crew members yelled and the driver then stopped, looked back, called out that he had to deliver the horses, and drove on. He returned about 15 to 20 minutes later, after delivering the horses.

Carotenuto stood up and tried to regain his composure, but collapsed to the ground. When the driver with the horse trailer returned to the scene and asked Carotenuto if he was OK, Lou made sure that he communicated to the fellow that he was not.

The driver said, “I knew I was too wide to get through.” Carotenuto asked, “So why did you?” The driver was silent.

Carotenuto was taken to the hospital emergency room. He had a partial tear in his medial collateral ligament and a depressed fibula. The tear healed over time, according to PennDOT. However, additional damage to his knee that didn’t clear up required surgery months later, and at the end  of that, physical therapy.

The story above was summarized from a PennDOT webpage dedicated to close calls in work zones. The stories are downright scary.

A motorist in Bucks County decided that he no longer wanted to wait for the instructions of a flagger and sped around two cars in front of him and the flagger and into an active work zone, then ran into the crew foreman who had gone into the road waving his arms and yelling for the motorist to stop. Fortunately, the foreman had only bumps and bruises.

An equipment operator in Venango County working on a guiderail had to jump over it out of harm’s way when a car didn’t look like it was going to stop.

A transportation construction inspector in Clearfield County was hit in 2013 when a vehicle struck him from behind, pushing his vehicle off the road and over an embankment. He was inspecting a section of posted highway to identify damage. He was very shaken and received minor injuries.

You get the picture.

The common thread is inattentive or irate drivers.

Don’t be one of them.

As the weather warms, and it eventually will, you will see more and more projects.

Have you driven on Route 283 lately in Lower Swatara and Londonderry townships? It’s not easy — narrow lanes, new traffic patterns, uneven pavement.

The reconstruction project covers six miles of Route 283 between the Toll House Road interchange and the interchange with the Pennsylvania Turnpike and Interstate 283. This is a major project for an important highway connection between Harrisburg and Lancaster that carries nearly 56,000 vehicles a day, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.  

In other words, it’s important work that needs to be done.

PennDOT crews and other road workers are not out there to inconvenience you. They are there to do a job, and to try to avoid the very situations outlined above and on the PennDOT website.

It’s not an easy — or safe — task.

Drivers want it both ways. We want perfect roads, but we hate construction projects. Those two things don’t go together. To have roads free of potholes, or better traffic flow, they have to be closed or adjusted. Otherwise, how would the work get done?

As for 283, the work will continue for quite awhile.

This work is part of an $89.4 million project that began last spring in 2017 to rebuild six miles of Route 283 as well as the Pennsylvania Turnpike, Union Street, and Vine Street interchanges. Westbound Route 283 will be rebuilt this year; eastbound Route 283 will be reconstructed next year. 

The structure work on the project includes the superstructure replacement of three mainline bridges, deck replacements of five mainline bridges, bridge preservation work on three overhead bridges, and one new prefabricated retaining wall. Rehabilitation work on three bridges over Route 283 were completed last year — the Newberry Road, Union Street and Vine Street bridges. The project also includes updated drainage and guiderail, signing and pavement markings, new highway lighting, and 12 new rain gardens to manage storm water. 

The overall project is scheduled for completion in 2020.

All of this is important work that needs to be done.

Don’t be part of the PennDOT horror stories. Be patient. Leave yourself time to travel. Obey flaggers and signs. Drive carefully.

Don’t make a mistake that could take a life.