Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Safety at a toll plaza presents some unique challenges

By Heather DeRosa

For some of our road workers, just getting to where they need to be can be dangerous.

Take Paul West, who has worked in our toll plaza on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge for 11 years. West, like all of our toll collectors on the bridge, have to get to their assigned booths while dealing with vehicles moving on SR 16 at 60 mph or more.
Toll worker Paul West signals to traffic to stop on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge as
he heads to his toll booth.

West knows that the safety of him and his co-workers as well as everyone else on the road is dependent on drivers being focused and alert.

"I've seen rear end accidents from people being distracted by their phones or trying to get their money out to pay the toll," he said. "But in the last 11 years, there hasn't been a single injury to our toll collectors."

Toll collectors follow a procedure that to get to their toll booth. They wear a safety vest to cross the lanes, and have a fellow toll collector hold up a stop sign or their hands and use their voice to signal to drivers to stop.

"Toll collectors cannot cross the lane until drivers come to a complete stop," he said. "Sometimes we get complaints about our stopping procedure, but it's what we have to do to be safe out here."

Keeping toll collectors and other drivers safe comes down to drivers slowing down, being alert, ignoring distractions, and having toll payment within an easy reach.
Vehicles on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge must be alert near the toll plaza to keep toll workers and other drivers safe.

"Slow down immediately after you pull off of Highway 16," West said. "Be aware that you are pulling into a safety zone equivalent to that of a rest stop. Pay attention to what toll lanes are open or closed, and keep your eyes on the road."

When not manning his toll booth, West likes to stay busy with projects around his house and is an avid runner. He has two daughters, and his first grandchild is due in November. West can't wait for his days off to be spent babysitting his grandson come this fall. Please help him and all road workers get home safely to their families by always being alert, slowing down and giving them room to get their jobs done.