New Law: Protective Fencing on Overpasses

WHITE DEER TOWNSHIP, Pa. -- An overpass on Grey Hill Road near Lewisburg has a small section for people to walk on. But other than that, there is nothing separating the overpass from Interstate 80 right now.

Governor Tom Wolf signed a law this week that will put protective fencing on some bridges and overpasses. The Bridge Fencing Safety Act now requires PennDOT to install fencing when building or rehabilitating bridges over interstates or limited access highways.

Fencing will also be considered for overpasses near a school or playground, where objects have previously been thrown, pedestrian bridges in urban areas, and known suicide hot spots.

There are some exceptions. The law does not apply if it blocks a scenic view or if the municipality opposes it. If it is opposed, the municipality must provide PennDOT with a statement that there have been no incidents of objects thrown there.

This comes almost four years after Sharon Budd was badly hurt by a rock thrown off this highway overpass in Union County. Four teenagers threw the rock that injured Budd. Sharon's husband Randy was a strong advocate of the law before his death.

Sharon's sister-in-law Rhonda Williams tells Newswatch 16, "This is great news. Hopefully this will deter people in the future from doing something like this then have to go through the hell that Sharon Budd went through and still goes through daily."

Newswatch 16 spoke to drivers about how they feel. Debbie Brill of Joliett drives on Interstate 81 several times a week.

"I think that's a wonderful idea, I really, really do," Brill said.

Donato Bonacquisto lives in San Antonio Texas, where they have fencing on overpasses. He drives through Pennsylvania during the summer and is happy to hear about the law.

"It just gives you that sense of security knowing that there's a fence there, not only for their protection, but for the protection of the drivers driving under that overpass," Bonacquisto said.

PennDOT has not said when or where fencing will be put up. As for Sharon Budd, she suffered brain injuries from that rock throwing incident, and still requires 24-hour care at her home in Uniontown, Ohio.

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