Pa. Turnpike call boxes being relegated to scrap heap

Camera icon Dan Hartzell / Morning Call Photographer
Call boxes like this are being removed from the Pennsylvania Turnpike,

Emergency call boxes on the Pennsylvania Turnpike are being relegated to the past after nearly 30 years of service.

Work began Monday, and is expected to continue until Sept. 29, to remove the 1,000 yellow boxes posted along the 550-mile toll road systems.

Any box still in place will remain functional until it is removed.

Put in place in 1988, use of the call boxes as declined as cell phones have grown in popularity.

“A decade ago, we saw call box activations of almost 6,000, while total usage came in under 800 last year,” Craig Shuey, the turnpike commission’s chief operating officer, said in a statement. “In the first eight months of 2017, we’ve seen around 400 activations.”

Besides plummeting use, Shuey said the call boxes are being removed because of the increased risks pedestrians face on the roadway from record traffic volumes, higher speed limits and the prevalence of driver distraction.

“We have all witnessed chilling instances involving people standing or walking along the highway mere feet from cars and trucks zipping past at 70 miles per hour,” Shuey said.

The removal of the call boxes has been projected to save the commission $200,000 annually.

Motorists should dial *11 on their cell phones to report an accident or other emergency on the turnpike.