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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2015 - 2016 Regular Session


Posted: May 8, 2015 04:39 PM
From: Senator Kim L. Ward
To: All Senate members
Subject: Waiving Turnpike Tolls for Motorcades Accompanying Fallen Heros
I am introducing legislation requiring the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission to waive tolls for vehicles accompanying a fallen firefighter, ambulance service or rescue squad member, law enforcement officer or armed service member killed in the line of duty.

A 17-year police officer from my district was killed this week while on patrol during the night in a head-on collision with a driver who was driving the wrong way on a divided highway. With no opportunity to avoid the other vehicle, Ligonier Township police Lt. and volunteer firefighter Eric Eslary died shortly after the crash and his his K-9 partner, Blek, was injured.

Emergency management coordinators of an escort comprised of various state and local police officers reached out to the Turnpike Commission to make arrangements for the large motorcade to access the Turnpike as it was accompanying Lt. Eslary's body from Westmoreland County to Pittsburgh and back for an autopsy. They learned the Turnpike requires a credit card for payment since it cannot waive tolls for situations such as this one. While individual commissioners of the Turnpike ultimately volunteered to pay the tolls themselves, the process required by the Turnpike took too much time and a decision had to be made for the motorcade to use the more inefficient Rt 30 throughout Westmoreland County, stopping traffic along the way.

In discussions with the Turnpike, I have confirmed they cannot waive tolls for escorts or funeral processions in cases of a line-of-duty death. It is a practice probably not widely known even among law enforcement since the Turnpike typically works with the funeral home handling processional arrangements. The funeral home gives payment to the Turnpike and the funeral home then bills the estate or life insurance.

While it is noble for Turnpike Commissioners to commonly pay out of their own pockets for motorcades traveling with a fallen officer, firefighter or armed service member, it is truly unfortunate the Commission cannot automatically make exceptions for these situations and therefore, places both financial and logistical burdens on family and emergency service community members as they deal with such a tragic loss. My legislation will ensure this doesn't continue.

Please join me in sponsoring this worthwhile legislation.

Introduced as SB891