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Speed cameras coming to NY Thruway construction zones

A construction workers holding a "ROAD WORK AHEAD" sign
New York State Department of Transportation

With continuing injuries and deaths among construction workers along the New York State Thruway and other high-speed roadways, Albany is looking for a solution. A public hearing was held Wednesday on a pilot project that will bring speed cameras to New York construction sites.

Work zone speed limits and the warning signs are familiar around here, especially during the summer construction season. Speakers at the Thruway public hearing said a lot of drivers just don't slow down and some workers pay the price.

One union representing Thruway workers said there have been 57 workers killed since 1983.

"This number is unacceptable and way too high," said CSEA Local 58 President Michael Osborne. "We need to do everything we can to protect our work zones and protect our workers in those zones. One of those ways is speed zone cameras, work zone speed cameras. They have a proven track record of success in states where they have been implemented. Maryland saw an 80% reduction in speeding and a 50% drop in fatalities."

There are often State Police on construction sites along the Thruway, whose presence serves to remind drivers of speed limits, but not on all sites. There will soon be be 30 construction sites with speed cameras in this pilot project. Gov. Kathy Hochul signed a bill on Labor Day setting up the project.
State Sen. Tim Kennedy sponsored the speed camera bill and said it's not like those in school zones started and stopped in Buffalo.

"Totally different," he said. "What we have put forward in the state legislature is a bill that would protect the construction workers that are out on the job, out on the high-speed interstates, with the Thruway Authority and the Department of Transportation overseeing them. There's 30 cameras across this entire state."

Only one speaker opposed the plan. Lawyer Marc Zylberberg said the cameras should operate only while work is going on.

"Work zone cameras, when they're active, they're active while the work zone is an active work zone. In other words, there are actually, physically men and women working in the work zone, which I think is a requirement in the law, although the law is mostly incomprehensible," Zylberberg said.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.