Berks senators advance bipartisan measure to increase safety in active highway work zones

HARRISBURG – A proposal championed by three Berks County senators to improve highway safety in active work zones is headed to the governor’s desk to be signed into law.

Sponsors of the proposal, Senators David G. Argall (R-Schuylkill/Berks) and Judy Schwank (D-Berks), teamed up with Senate Transportation Committee Chairman John C. Rafferty, Jr. (R-Berks/Chester/Montgomery) to pass Senate Bill 172 in the state Senate on Tuesday. The bill will allow for automated speed enforcement systems (ASES) in active work zones along federal aid highways under PennDOT and the Turnpike Commission’s jurisdiction.

Motorists exceeding the speed limit by at least 11 mph when construction workers and an ASES are present will receive a written warning for the first offense, a $75 fine for the second offense and a $150 fine for third and subsequent offenses. Motorists who do not speed through these active work zones will not be impacted by this legislation.

“This issue started back in 2014 when we met with transportation leaders in Berks County about the challenges of work zone safety with the increased number of construction projects coupled with the limited availability of State Police coverage,” Argall said. “Since then, we’ve heard from family members of highway workers who fear the lives of their loved ones. We heard it loud and clear: protect the lives of workers and that’s what this bill will do.”

“I’m absolutely pleased that we were able to get this out of the Senate. Motorists and highway workers alike will benefit from clearly marked active work zones on major highways,” Schwank said. “We started on a bipartisan basis and finished that way, and we picked up input from many interested stakeholders along the way that make it a stronger bill. I am confident it will make our highways safer to ride and to work on.”

“The primary focus of this bi-partisan bill is to protect our highway workers who, by the performance of their civic duties, are placed in harm’s way to improve the Commonwealth’s transportation system,” Rafferty said. “Pennsylvania has witnessed too many highway workers who lost their lives or were severely injured in active work zones due to speeding.”

The lawmakers point out several provisions to warn motorists of upcoming active work zones with the ASES deployed, including at least two warning signs before the active work zone, one sign indicating if the ASES is active as well as ASES location information posted to the websites of PennDOT and the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission.

“The goal is to change driver behavior and make motorists think twice before speeding in work zones that puts their lives and the lives of innocent workers at risk,” Argall added.

The bipartisan measure heads to the governor for his signature.

Rafferty, Hutchinson Measure Explores Consolidation of PennDOT/Turnpike Interstate Operations

 Harrisburg — A resolution sponsored by Senator John C. Rafferty, Jr., (R-44) and Senator Scott Hutchinson (R-21) was adopted by the Senate and calls for a study of a potential consolidation of the interstate operations of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) and the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission (Turnpike).

“Currently, both PennDOT and the Turnpike are responsible for the planning, construction and maintenance of interstate highways and freeways under their respective jurisdictions,” said Rafferty. “We have an obligation to the taxpayers to analyze all cost-saving measures, particularly when two overlapping Commonwealth agencies perform similar duties.”

While PennDOT and the Turnpike created a “Mapping the Future” initiative in 2011 to explore collaboration, there has never been a study of the potential consolidation of the interstate operations.

Senate Resolution 209 directs the Joint State Government Commission to undertake the study and to provide a final report with findings of fact, recommendations and any proposed legislative remedies.

“The initial purpose of the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission was to build the original Turnpike, and that was accomplished decades ago,” said Senator Hutchinson. “I believe this study will show that there are a lot of redundant costs incurred by the Commission, such as engineering services and maintenance crews, which could be reduced significantly if the Turnpike was operated by PennDOT. If things don’t change, those unnecessary costs will continue to be passed on to drivers through ever-increasing tolls.”

PennDOT has an annual budget of more than $8 billion in federal and state funds, and is responsible for nearly 40,000 miles of highway and 25,400 bridges.

The Turnpike is responsible for 552 miles of roadway, 150 bridges, 79 interchange configurations, 27 maintenance facilities and 17 service plazas. It has an operating budget of approximately $360 million, and will have assumed nearly $17 billion in debt by 2022, primarily as a result of $450 million in annual funding contributions to PennDOT required under Act 44 of 2007.

Under Senate Resolution 209, the Joint State Government Commission will have 18 months to provide its report to the Senate.

 

Contacts:        Nolan Ritchie (Senator Rafferty) nritchie@pasen.gov (717) 787-1398

                            Justin Leventry (Senator Hutchinson) jleventry@pasen.gov (717) 787-9684

Senate Passes Langerholc Resolution To Review Removing Cambria County From Emissions Testing

 

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HARRISBURG – The State Senate today passed a resolution sponsored by Sen. Wayne Langerholc, Jr. (R-35) directing a Senate commission to review removing Cambria County from vehicle emissions testing requirements.

Langerholc said passage of the measure by the full Senate is an important step in determining if the 14-year-old requirement, which costs motorists on average $40, is still necessary, given the fact that the region has been consistently meeting air quality standards.

Cambria County is one of 25 Pennsylvania counties where vehicles are required to undergo emissions testing as part of annual safety inspections – many of them are in heavily populated areas near Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.

Senate Resolution 168, which now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration, directs the Joint State Government Commission to perform a detailed study of the potential impact of removing Cambria County from the emissions testing requirement.

The testing requirement was first implemented in 1997 and expanded to include Cambria County in 2003.  However, Langerholc noted that it was based on air quality data from the 1990s.  Local air quality has steadily improved since that time, leading Cambria County to be designated as an attainment area in 2008.

“The emissions testing requirement made sense 20 years ago to ensure the worst-polluting vehicles were removed from our roadways, but advances in vehicle emissions technology have helped to ease many local concerns regarding air quality,” Langerholc said. “For nearly a decade our region has met federal air quality standards, so it makes sense for local motorists to no longer have to pay for testing that may not be necessary.”

“To remove the emissions testing requirement,” Langerholc said, “the state Department of Environmental Protection is required to submit a revised State Implementation Plan (SIP) to the federal Environmental Protection Agency.”

Langerholc’s resolution includes a requirement for the Joint State Government Commission to provide recommendations for lawmakers regarding the cost of submitting a revised SIP and any potential loss of environmental credits or other financial impacts resulting from the removal of the emissions requirement from Cambria County residents.

CONTACT:

Gwenn Dando
(717) 599- 1164
gdando@pasen.gov

“Budd Bill” Approved by State Senate

HARRISBURG – Legislation to require the installation of protective fencing over Interstate highways was unanimously approved today by the state Senate, according to Senator Gene Yaw (R-23), sponsor of the measure.

Senate Bill 564 establishes a freestanding act entitled the “Bridge Fencing Safety Act” to provide for installation of protective fencing on certain state-owned bridges by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT).

The bill authorizes PennDOT to include protective fencing in the construction of “new bridges and erect protective fencing on any existing bridge at such time that a major renovation is required and that the bridge is located over an Interstate highway.”

“I’m grateful for my colleagues for supporting this measure,” Yaw said.  “This bill will undoubtedly improve the safety of our transportation infrastructure and help further protect pedestrians and motorists alike.”

In 2014, Sharon Budd, of Uniontown, Ohio was a passenger in her family’s car traveling through Yaw’s District on Interstate 80 when a rock plunged from an overpass, smashed through the windshield of her vehicle and struck her in the face.  She suffered serious head injuries.  Budd’s husband, Randy, was instrumental in lobbying to have Pennsylvania law changed to require added fencing on overpasses. 

“Sadly, this is just one of many incidents reported across the Commonwealth where objects have been repeatedly released from overpasses.  The problem continues to be danger as evidenced by recent events,” Yaw added. 

On September 20th, three people in Berks County were arrested in connection with a case of rock-throwing that damaged at least three vehicles on Interstate 78.  The juvenile suspects have been charged with propulsion of missiles, simple assault, recklessly endangering another person, and criminal mischief, all misdemeanor offenses.

Senate Bill 564 now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration.

CONTACT:
Rita Zielonis, Chief of Staff
(717) 787-3280

Senate Panel Approves Legislation to Improve Disabled Parking Access

HARRISBURG – The Senate Transportation Committee today unanimously approved legislation aimed at improving accessibility of parking spaces for persons with disabilities, according to Committee Chairman, Senator John C. Rafferty, Jr. (R-44), who sponsored the measure along with Senator Scott Martin (R-13).

The number of parking spaces that are designated for persons with disabilities is limited. In order to accommodate vehicles equipped with ramps, wheelchair lifts and other devices, these spaces include access aisles, generally marked with diagonal lines adjoining the space. These parking spaces and access aisles are necessary to improve mobility for persons with disabilities to access medical appointments, shopping centers and other locations.

Senate Bill 888 aims to address deficiencies in current law pertaining to penalties and enforcement of parking spaces for persons with disabilities, including provisions for enforcing access aisles. Under this legislation, violators who illegally park in parking spaces or block access aisles designated for persons with disabilities will be subject to towing, charged with a summary offense and susceptible to increased fines.

“Our legislation should provide the needed clarity for law enforcement, public agencies and businesses to enforce, protect and maintain these critical parking spaces and access aisles,” said Rafferty. “Modernizing the Commonwealth’s disabled parking laws should ensure our interconnected transportation network is accessible for persons with disabilities.”

Under the proposed legislation, violators who block access aisles could be charged with a summary offense and could face increased penalties and/or having their vehicle towed.

“Parking spots are reserved for persons with disabilities for good reason. Without those spots and access aisles, many of them wouldn’t have an opportunity to get the basic necessities of life, including groceries and medical care,” Martin said. “Keeping these spaces clear is the key to ensuring many persons with disabilities retain as much mobility and independence as possible.”

Senate Bill 888 now goes to the Senate for full approval.

Contacts:

Nolan Ritchie, Senator Rafferty’s Office, (717) 787-1398
Terry Trego, Senator Martin’s Office, (717) 787-6535

Senator Rafferty

Senator Rafferty, Detective David Weiser and Senator Martin helped to lead passage of Senate Bill 888, which will improve accessibility of parking spaces for persons with disabilities

Martin, Rafferty Announce Legislation to Improve Disabled Parking Access

HARRISBURG – Senators Scott Martin (R-13) and John C. Rafferty, Jr. (R-44) announced legislation today designed to improve accessibility of parking spaces for persons with disabilities.

The number of parking spaces that are designated for persons with disabilities is limited. In order to accommodate vehicles equipped with ramps, wheelchair lifts and other devices, these spaces include access aisles, generally marked with diagonal lines adjoining the space. These parking spaces and access aisles are necessary to improve mobility for persons with disabilities to access medical appointments, shopping centers and other locations.

Senate Bill 888 aims to address deficiencies in current law pertaining to penalties and enforcement of parking spaces for persons with disabilities, including provisions for enforcing access aisles. Under this legislation, violators who illegally park in parking spaces or block access aisles designated for persons with disabilities will be subject to towing, charged with a summary offense and susceptible to increased fines.

“Our legislation should provide the needed clarity for law enforcement, public agencies and businesses to enforce, protect and maintain these critical parking spaces and access aisles,” stated Rafferty, who chairs the Senate Transportation Committee. “Modernizing the Commonwealth’s disabled parking laws should ensure our interconnected transportation network is accessible for persons with disabilities.”

Under the proposed legislation, Senate Bill 888, violators who block access aisles could be charged with a summary offense and could face increased penalties and/or having their vehicle towed.

“Given the limited availability of parking spaces for motorists with disabilities, these spaces need to be protected and properly enforced,” Martin said. “In many cases, blocking an access aisle has the same effect as illegally parking in the space. In these instances, the penalties should be the same.”

The legislation was announced at a news conference today at the East King Street Parking Garage in Lancaster. The news conference included a demonstration by a local resident of some of the challenges facing persons with disabilities when they have insufficient space to park.

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CONTACT:
Nolan Ritchie, Senator Rafferty’s Office, (717) 787-1398
Terry Trego, Senator Martin’s Office, (717) 787-6535

Lawmakers, Advocates Outline PA’s New DUI Ignition Interlock Law

 

At a news conference in Harrisburg, Senator John C. Rafferty, Jr., (R-44) joined lawmakers, law enforcement, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Parents Against Impaired Driving, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and other advocacy groups to discuss the impact and implementation of Pennsylvania’s new ignition interlock law to further strengthen Pennsylvania’s Driving Under the Influence (DUI) laws. 

Following the news conference, an ignition interlock demonstration was organized by the Pennsylvania DUI Association in a vehicle equipped with the device.

The new law, Act 33 of 2016, becomes effective on August 25, 2017, and requires first-time DUI offenders with an illegal Blood Alcohol Content of .10 percent or higher to use ignition interlocks for at least 12 months.

“Ignition interlocks are smart on crime and proven to stop drunk-driving attempts,” stated Senator Rafferty, who chairs the Senate Transportation Committee.  “With this new law, ignition interlocks will be available to more individuals and allow them to be productive members of society in a strictly-controlled environment while serving their drunk-driving sentence.”

“We have seen far too many cases in which drunk drivers have put innocent victims in harm’s way.  The new ignition interlock requirements will go a long way toward preventing drunk drivers from making the deadly choice of getting behind the wheel while impaired,” mentioned Senator Scott Martin, who introduced legislation earlier this year that would enact stiffer punishments for repeat DUI offenders.  “Even one tragedy related to drunk driving is one too many.  These new laws are a clear step in the right direction, but our work is not finished.  We must continue to explore every avenue to prevent the tragedies that result from driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol.”

“Simply put, ignition interlocks save lives.  Just last year they prevented over 7,000 DUIs.  On top of that, this legislation will allow people an opportunity to drive safely and continue to support their families,” noted Craig Stedman, District Attorney for Lancaster County.  “It is hard to find legislation which protects the community and helps the offenders.  This legislation, however, accomplishes both of those goals, and I want to thank Senator Rafferty and all the organizations involved in getting this law passed for their efforts and unwavering commitment to make our streets safer.”

There were 10,256 alcohol-related crashes in Pennsylvania that unfortunately resulted in 297 deaths in 2016.  With Act 33, Pennsylvania joins 48 other states across the nation in expanding ignition interlock to most first-time DUI offenders with the premise of reducing alcohol-related crashes and deaths. 

 

CONTACTS: 

Nolan Ritchie, Senator Rafferty’s Office, 717-787-1398
Terry Trego, Senator Martin’s Office, 717-787-6535
Brett Hambright, Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office, 717-299-8100

News Conference to Focus on Impact, Implementation of PA’s DUI Ignition Interlock Law

Senator John C. Rafferty (R-44) will hold a news conference at noon on Thursday, August 24 in the State Capitol Media Center with lawmakers, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Parents Against Impaired Driving, law enforcement, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and other advocacy groups.

“Ignition interlocks are smart on crime and proven to stop drunk-driving attempts,” stated Senator Rafferty, Chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee.  “With this new law, ignition interlocks will be available to more individuals and allow them to be productive members of society in a strictly-controlled environment while serving their drunk-driving sentence.”

The speakers will discuss the impact and implementation of the state’s new ignition interlock law, Act 33 of 2016, and related ignition interlock provisions in Act 30 of 2017.

The new law requires most first-time offenders of Driving Under the Influence (DUI) to install ignition interlocks on their vehicles for at least one year.

Following the news conference (at approximately 12:45 p.m.), there will be an ignition interlock demonstration, organized by the Pennsylvania DUI Association, in a vehicle for all attendees and the media.   

The vehicle will be parked in Parking Space 31 on the Parking Plaza (adjacent to the main entrance facing 3rd Street of the Capitol).  When you exit the main entrance of the Capitol, this parking space is to the right (in the direction of the State Museum).

The news conference will be streamed live at www.pasenategop.com   

 

CONTACT: Nolan Ritchie (717) 787-1398

Senate approves joint bill on work zone speed cameras

HARRISBURG – Today, the Senate approved a joint legislative proposal introduced by Senator David G. Argall (R-Schuylkill/Berks) and Senator Judy Schwank (D-Berks) which aims to curtail the number of accidents and fatalities that have occurred on our highways due to reckless driving and speeding.

“The goal of this legislation is to safeguard the men and women who work on repairing our roads and infrastructure in order to make them safer and more efficient for motorists.  In return, it is our duty and obligation to ensure that they have the ability to do so in a secure manner,” stated Argall. 

Senate Bill 172 would establish a three-year pilot program for PennDOT to utilize speed cameras in active work zones on limited access highways in order to examine whether or not the additional $100 fine motorists would incur if they commit a violation within the automated speed enforcement zone would compel them to slow down when entering and passing through a construction work zone.

Remaining fines collected during the three-year trial period would be distributed to the State Police, PennDOT, Turnpike Commission and Motor License Fund.

According to data from PennDOT there were 2,075 crashes and 16 fatalities that occurred within work zones last year.

“Children of the men and women who work to improve our roads shouldn’t have to wonder if their parents are going to come home,” Schwank said. “This legislation will make work a little safer for them, and for the motorists who drive through work zones.”

Senate Bill 172 will now move to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Rafferty’s Legislation To Increase Fines and Penalties For Violating PA “Steer Clear” Law Enacted

Legislation sponsored by Senator John C. Rafferty, Jr. (R-44) that would increase fines and penalties for repeat violators of Pennsylvania’s “Steer Clear” Law has been signed into law.

Rafferty, who chairs the Senate Transportation Committee, said SB 288, which was unanimously passed by both the Senate and the House of Representatives, is intended to crack down on those repeat offenders who violate the “Steer Clear” Law.  This common-sense law that has been in effect since 2001 requires drivers to slow down and move into a lane not adjacent to an emergency response area, when possible.  If motorists cannot move over because of traffic or other conditions, then they must reduce their speed. 

“The ‘Steer Clear’ Law is intended to save lives and prevent accidents, but unfortunately, the number of incidents is continuing to increase dramatically,” Rafferty mentioned.  “According to PennDOT, from 2013 to 2015, total charges rose by more than 85 percent.  The steeper fines and license suspension included in this legislation should act as a deterrent against repeat offenders, while also providing another opportunity to educate drivers on the ‘Steer Clear’ Law.”

Rafferty’s legislation will:

  • Maintain a fine of not more than $250 for a first offense.
  • Set a maximum fine of $500 for a second offense.
  • Establish a maximum fine of $1,000 for a third or subsequent offense.
  • Introduce a 90 day license suspension for a third or subsequent offense or if the violation resulted in serious bodily injury to or death of another person.

“This law is being strengthened to coincide with the seriousness of each violation to help protect law enforcement, tow truck operators, highway workers and other emergency personnel who put themselves in harm’s way,” Rafferty noted.  “It is the motorists’ responsibility to slow down and move over when they encounter an emergency response area on roadways in this Commonwealth.”

CONTACT

Nolan Ritchie (717) 787-1398