With spring, birds return for the summer, baseball practices begin, and we begin to once again see what some have dubbed the state flower of Pennsylvania along our roadways, the orange construction barrel. As workers head out to maintain our over 250,000 miles of state-owned highways across the Commonwealth, safety measures are implemented by engineering designs, by contractors themselves, and by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, current safety measures have not prevented all deaths in work zones. Since 1970, 86 PennDOT employees have been killed in work zones and since opening, over 30 Pennsylvania Turnpike employees have lost their lives in work zone accidents. According to the Federal Highway Administration, there were over 700 fatalities in work zone accidents in 2015.
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania currently does not have a program in place permitting the use of automated speed enforcement systems (i.e., cameras to monitor traffic), unlike our neighboring state of Maryland. In the 2015-2016 legislative session, Pennsylvania Senators worked to pass legislation (S.B. 840) to permit the use of automated speed enforcement systems (ASES) in active work zones. The legislation passed with full support of the Senate in October of 2016 but died when the session ended on November 30th. The legislation, now known as S.B. 172, was reintroduced in January of 2017 at the beginning of the 2017-2018 legislative session and referred to the Transportation committee, whereby a vote was held, and the bill passed with unanimous consent. Currently, S.B. 172 is tabled in the Senate awaiting further action. The proposed program will have a limit of five years with an opportunity for extension by the General Assembly. The purpose of this article is to help you gain an understanding of the proposed legislation and where the monies generated will be directed.
ASES will automatically detect vehicles exceeding the posted speed limit by at least 11 miles per hour and record the vehicle’s rear license plate, location, date, time, and speed. S.B 172 proposes the implementation of such devices in active work zones on interstate highways under the jurisdiction of PennDOT, interstate highways, or freeways under Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission (PTC) jurisdiction. The use of an ASES will not be without warning, minimally two appropriate warning signs must be clearly placed BEFORE the active work zone to notify motorists. PennDOT or PTC must identify the location of an ASES on the corresponding, publicly assessable, website for the duration of the project. If the work zone is not active, an ASES cannot be used to assess fines.
When a violation occurs, a notice will be mailed to the registered owner of the vehicle identified in the photographs. Along with the notice of violation, offenders will find a copy of the image recorded, the registration number, the date, time, and location, and instructions on how to remit payment or request a hearing. The fine for a violation under this law will be $100. Any violation will NOT be placed on the driver’s operating record or be used for merit rating for insurance purposes. Permissible defenses written into the legislation to protect owners from a wrongful penalty include; a vehicle reported stolen to a police department that has not been recovered prior to the violation and receipt of a notice of violation by an individual other than the registered owner of the vehicle. If an owner challenges a violation, hearing times will be held in the following metropolitan areas: Erie, Harrisburg, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Scranton. The hearing will be informal, and the decision of the hearing officer will be final. An owner may request, in writing, to have the decision of the hearing officer appealed, in which case, the magisterial district judge for the district in which the violation occurred, will hear and rule on the matter.
Photos collected by an ASES are not permitted to be used for any other surveillance purposes, be considered public information and accessible under Right-to-Know (P.L.6, No.3), and will be destroyed within one year of a notice of violation. The limitations of the program are null and void, should a court issue an order for the information to be provided to law enforcement officials regarding a criminal law enforcement action. If a court order is issued, images will be destroyed within two years of the order being issued, unless extended by a separate court order.
S.B. 172 directs fines remitted into two separate restricted accounts established in the Pennsylvania State Treasury. The first account will be used to pay for the administration of the pilot program and the system administrator’s invoice costs. Once administration fees have been covered, the remaining funds will be directed into the second account.
Seventy-five percent of the fines collected will be deposited on a quarterly basis. Within 90 days of the deposit, the Department of Revenue will transfer an amount equivalent to the previous quarterly deposit to the Pennsylvania State Police (PSP). Fifty-five percent of PSP funds will be used for recruiting, training, or equipping PSP cadets. Forty-five percent of PSP funds will be used to pay for increased PSP presence in work zones on PennDOT and PTC managed State road systems not utilizing concrete barriers. Twenty-five percent of fines collected will be transferred to PennDOT or PTC, dependent on whichever State road system utilized an ASES for safety and the education of the public on work zone safety.
Funds generated are considered supplemental. Should the amount of funds be lower than the previous fiscal year, the Motor License Fund may not be used to make up the difference. PSP will not be prohibited from obtaining additional funding from any other means due to monies, received from the program.
S.B 172 can be tracked via the General Assembly website here. Should you have any questions or concerns regarding this legislation, you may contact your Senator and/or Representative. Click here to find out who your legislators are and to get their contact information. To learn more about work zone safety check out Operation Orange Squeeze.
P. Joseph Lehman, Inc., Consulting Engineers is committed to safety above all in construction zones and incorporates safety into our designs to the highest degree possible.
P. Joseph Lehman, Inc., Consulting Engineers is made up of a growing team of highly-skilled professionals and experienced specialists in transportation design, structural engineering, site development, surveying, environmental science, environmental characterization and remediation, and geology and construction services. Lehman Engineers currently maintains offices in Hollidaysburg, Bedford, and Harrisburg, PA.