Nebraska Legislature hears testimony on bill to increase safety for road crews

(WOWT)
Published: Mar. 29, 2019 at 6:52 PM CDT
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A member of a pothole crew was injured in Omaha and remained in critical condition as of Friday.

Sergio Rodriguez-Lopez and two other city-contracted workers were hurt Wednesday near 120th and Franklin when a driver ran into their signal arrow bar construction trailer and pickup.

The accident came as a bill related to road worker safety works its way through the Nebraska Legislature.

Hearing of Wednesday's crash brought back a lot of emotions for Sara Porter.

"Triggered everything from the long wait in the hospital, to the announcement when he formally died, to the organ harvest," she recalled.

Porter knew pothole crew member Sal Fidone who was killed in January of 2017 near 144th and U when a driver hit him.

"If we can change something to slow people down, be aware that they're out there. Just be cautious," Sal's brother, T.J. Fidone said in February of 2017.

Just weeks after Fidone's death his family said they wanted to advocate for change, which came in the form of LB 520.

Earlier this month, Porter, City of Omaha officials and a union representing workers went to speak in support of the bill in Lincoln.

The bill would require larger cities across the state to update their safety standards every year.

"We just want the standard operating procedures to be updated annually. As the City of Omaha grows and evolves, these standard operating procedures would grow and evolve with it," Kelcy Johnson, vice president of Nebraska Public Employees Local 251 said.

Omaha most recently updated its safety standards following Fidone's death.

Porter hopes updates will be more frequent and that there can be more signage, trucks and other measures put in place.

"I understand the logistics, but safety is much more important to logistics to me," she said.

Her goal is that what happened to Fidone doesn't have to happen to anyone else.

"Kids shouldn't have to grow up without a dad. A mom shouldn't have to bury her son because he was working one morning," Porter said.

Mayor Jean Stothert's office said the city supports the bill.