Wilma pulled down thousands of signals
NY DOT crews help give Florida drivers green light
By SHERRY HALBROOK
Have you ever had to wait forever to get through a busy intersection because the traffic light was out? It’s worse than frustrating; it can be dangerous.
Well, if you’ve had that experience, then try to imagine what it’s been like for people in Broward County, Florida, which lost nearly every traffic signal when Hurricane Wilma swept through in October, according to PEF Region 5 member Paul Gregory.
IT WORKS — PEF member Paul Gregory and Bob Walaszewski restore a traffic signal in Florida.
— Photos by Daryl Henderson, courtesy of CSEA
A civil engineer in charge of signals for the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT), Gregory assembled and supervised an eight-member team that New York sent to Broward County from November 9 through December 20 to help restore the downed and destroyed signals and get traffic moving safely.
“Broward County (located just north of Miami-Dade Counties in south Florida) had 1,350 traffic signals before the hurricane hit, and all but two were downed,” Gregory said. “It’s been a really dangerous situation.
“If you haven’t been there, there is no way you could have any idea of the amount of damage,” he said. “They’ve been doing a hell of a job. Florida is flat, but it now has mountains of debris they’ve cleaned up from the storm.”
Although he had assembled three tractor-trailer loads of materials to bring down with them, that plan was scuttled at the last minute when Florida decided to rely on new signals and wiring it had ordered.
“When we first got there, we had to scrounge and scavenge for anything usable we could find in the piles of broken signals and other debris,” Gregory said.
Dividing his workers into three crews, he sent them out over the devastated and unfamiliar county.
“We worked 12 hours a day, six days a week, and by Saturday night we were tired,” he said. The crew spent Thanksgiving Day resting at the beach.
Unlike New York where the state installs and maintains most traffic signals, in Florida that job falls to the counties and cities, Gregory said, and Broward was overwhelmed.
Although Gregory and his crews were the only DOT employees sent to Florida from New York, they found themselves working with crews from Utah, Virginia, Missouri, South Carolina and Maryland, as well as Broward and many other Florida counties that responded to the emergency.
“Everybody learned a lot,” Gregory said. “We concentrated on restoring three-color signals, flashers and flashing school-zone signals, which are very important to people down there.”
The New Yorkers restored signals at 218 locations.
The other seven members of the NY team — all members of the Civil Service Employees Association — are from the Utica, Rochester and Binghamton areas.
“We really hadn’t worked together before, but we became good friends in just the first day or two,” Gregory said.
And how did Florida drivers (and “snowbirds”) respond to the New York crews?
“We got everything from the one-finger salute to, ‘Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!’”
The Communicator February
wasting inspection funds
In their words: Workplace Violence
replace Camp Pharsalia
PEF at Parole Assembly hearing
Officers in daring rescue
Feds tax &
funding budget cuts
Member calls election regs redo
You Said It - Member's Mailbag
Retirees In Action
PEF Membership Benefits &Travel
Test Battery policy
PEF online training center
Better PSTP Voucher Programs
NY DOT crews
help Florida drivers
repays debt of kindness
Macy’s parade bop
leads to fame
Election triennial rules
Shayne is murdered
win in fight-back
Mass. RNs honor
Executive Board report
Do You Prefer The
Questions on this