When PennDOT asks you to slow down — whether it's because of construction or inclement weather — it's not to make your commute longer. It's for your own safety and the safety of others — like our road workers who are often inches away from moving traffic while performing maintenance operations or assisting at a crash scene.
Robert Gensimore was setting up flares at the scene of an incident on Interstate 99 in Blair County February 17 when he was struck and killed by a motorist who lost control in the snowy weather.
Bob was a 11-year veteran of PennDOT, working as a highway foreman in Blair County. He was married with two children, and was a volunteer firefight with Warriors Mark – Franklin Volunteer Fire Department.
"This is such a tragedy," said Tom Prestash, District Executive for District 9, which includes Blair County. "Our employees have an inherently dangerous job and this time we lost a member of our PennDOT family; we will be forever saddened by his loss."
A BIG PROBLEM
Last year, PennDOT reported there was an average of 1,872 work-zone crashes and more than 20 fatalities in work zones since 2011. And that's everyone – not just PennDOT employees.
Sadly, 88 PennDOT employees have lost their lives in the line of duty since 1970. Memorials have been erected around the state to pay tribute to those employees. Over the years, more than 30 PA Turnpike workers have died on the job. Many of these tragedies were caused by driver mistakes like speeding or distraction.
"Not a day goes by that I don't think about the hazards our front-line staff face each day as they work tirelessly to keep the peple of Pennsylvania safe and mobile," said PennDOT Secretary Leslie S. Richards in a letter to the public and PennDOT employees. "Robert was the 88th PennDOT employee killed in the line of duty since the agency was created in 1970. This is the kind of tragedy we pray does not happen, and we are devastated when it does happen."
Every day, road workers from transportation agencies across the state – not just PennDOT – put their lives at risk to make roads safer for everyone. Bob was no exception.
Don Hoover, an operator instructor in Blair County, was always taken with how Bob presented himself at work.
"Any time I would be training the new hires or the temporary hires, Bob would make it a point to stop and introduce himself and tell them if they had any questions to call him," he said. "I have always considered him a friend and class act."
Nearly 1,200 people attended a February 21 memorial service for Bob.
"Bob was everyone's friend. If he didn't know you he made it a point to do so," said Naomi Shields, a co-worker in PennDOT's Blair County office. "He treated everyone as though he knew them his whole life. He was genuine and friendly. Not the kind of person you meet every day, but the kind you remember forever."
For more information on work zone safety, visit www.PennDOT.gov/safety. Please, remember to be patient, stay alert, and slow down.