DICKSON CITY – When Penndot raises the speed limit to 70 miles per hour on two area interstate highways next month, it will also raise the speed limit in work zones to 55.
Area construction workers call that move frightening.
“One thing between me and you is this barrier wall,” says worker Gene DeGraffenreid of Kingston. “And if someone hits it at 55, we`re both gone.”
DeGraffenried and his colleagues told Newswatch 16 they were nervous at a highway construction site on I-81 in Dickson City, where the work zone speed limit is 45.
In three weeks, work zone speed limit will be 55 along a 22-mile stretch of i-380, and on 89-miles of I-80 where Penndot will raise the regular speed limit to 70.
“Some people are just in a hurry to go nowhere,”
“They don`t abide by the speed limit one bit. They do what they want to do,” added his co-worker Gary Wasman of Lake Ariel.
In the last ten years in our state, 249 people died in work zones, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.
49 of them were construction workers, making Pennsylvania the fourth deadliest in the nation.
The most up-to-date numbers come from 2012, where 21 people died in work zones in Pennsylvania, including 3 construction workers.
These deaths hit workers hard.
In 2001. Penndot workers mourned the death of one of their own: Richard Bradley of West Hazleton.
He worked as a flag man when he was struck by a student who told police he may have fallen asleep at the wheel at the Butler Township accident site.
The tragedy devastated his Penndot co-workers who witnessed the crash.
“To lose a friend like this. I’m just in shock to see something like this happening. It’s really upsetting,” said his co-worker Dave Kusek days after the tragedy.
Gene DeGraffenreid knows the feeling.
He fears what will might happen if there’s a wreck at a construction are where the work zone speed limit will soon be 55.
“You`re going home in two ways,” said DeGraffenreid. “You`re going home in an ambulance or in a casket. That`s the only way I can put it to you.”
State police say they will discourage work zone speeding at the 55 mile-per-hour work zones by beefing up patrols, and hiding in construction vehicles with a radar gun.
But construction workers tell us the real problem is people driving legally through these construction zones at 55 miles per hour.
They say 55 is too fast.