, Land Line state legislative editor | Thursday, October 12, 2017
One effort halfway through the Pennsylvania statehouse is intended to improve safety and deter delinquent behavior on various overpasses around the state.
The Senate voted unanimously to approve a bill that would require the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation to erect fencing on certain state-owned bridges. It now moves to the House.
PennDOT already has guidelines in place for protective fence-railing. However, the rule applies only for limited circumstances that include where there is a bridge with a sidewalk over an interstate, railroad or other limited-access freeway.
Sponsored by Sen. Gene Yaw, R-Lycoming, the bill would require protective fencing to be included on new bridges. The rule would also apply to existing interstate bridges when a major renovation is needed.
PennDOT also would be required to consider installing protective fencing on overpasses where there is a history of objects being dropped from the bridge onto the roadway.
“This bill will undoubtedly improve the safety of our transportation infrastructure and help further protect pedestrians and motorists alike,” Yaw said in a released statement.
Yaw has cited a July 2014 incident along Interstate 80 in Union County showing the need for protective fencing. Sharon Budd of Uniontown, Ohio, was a passenger in a car when a 4-pound rock was tossed from the Gray Hill Road overpass and smashed through the windshield of her vehicle and struck her in the face. Budd survived the incident; however, she sustained significant, lasting injuries.
Yaw previously noted the rock also struck a tractor-trailer. He added that the overpass did not meet the state DOT’s criteria for protective fencing.
According to reports, four teenagers were sentenced to prison for their roles in the rock throwing.
More recently, Yaw drew attention to an incident Sept. 20 on Interstate 78 in Berks County. Three people reportedly were arrested in connection with a rock-throwing incident that damaged at least three vehicles.
“The problem continues to be a danger,” he said.
Yaw points out that the Ohio Department of Transportation has adopted a similar rule.
The Pennsylvania DOT estimated that adding fencing to the state’s nearly 4,000 overpasses would cost $200 million. The agency has already spent $3 million over the past two years to add protective fencing on more than 70 bridges. However, there is no requirement in state law for PennDOT to act.
The bill, SB564, to mandate protective fencing awaits further consideration in the House Transportation Committee.
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