Saturday, August 1, 2015

Slow Saturday Special: Job Takes Toll on Pappas

"Toll worker fatally struck on Mass. Pike in Auburn" by Peter Schworm and Sarah Roberts Globe Staff and Globe Correspondent  July 31, 2015

State Police are investigating the accident to determine whether the driver of the 2010 Toyota Tacoma was speeding. The driver, a 31-year-old man from Charlton, pulled over after the accident, and showed no signs of impairment. He was not injured and has not been charged.

A 15-mile-per-hour speed limit is in effect through the E-ZPass toll lanes, but Robert Cullinane, the head of Teamsters Local 127, said it is rarely enforced, making it dangerous for collectors to cross the road.

“It’s like playing dodgeball,” Cullinane said. Bill Pappas, 61, had to cross seven lanes to reach the building, he said.

Thomas Tinlin, highway administrator for the state transportation department, said Pappas’s death was a terrible tragedy.


According to Michael Verseckes, a spokesman for the state transportation department, the procedure for a worker exiting a toll booth is to turn on a white bulb that indicates the booth is empty, place a traffic cone in the middle of the lane, and watch for traffic before crossing. It was not immediately clear whether Pappas had followed this procedure.

Pappas was rushed to UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester, where he died a short time later. Three lanes of the highway were closed after the accident, but because of the early hour, traffic did not back up.

In 2013, state officials unveiled a plan to replace all tollbooths on the Turnpike with all-electronic tolls. The conversion, which is expected to be complete by mid- to late 2016, will save the state an estimated $50 million. Most of the state’s 400 toll collectors will lose their jobs. 

Better than losing your life.