OWEGO — A plow in each state Department of Transportation (DOT) region across the state will now be named ‘Howe’s Plow’ memory of Dennis “Matt” Howe, a CSEA Central Region member who passed away March 18, 2019, from injuries sustained in a worksite incident five days earlier.
Howe, a highway maintenance worker in Owego, was working to fill potholes on State Route 17 in Tioga County when a tractor trailer hit the state maintenance vehicle he was working in. Howe’s vehicle had been parked at the shoulder of the road.
The tractor trailer driver, who was from Pennsylvania, was later convicted of criminally negligent homicide.
“Matt had every right to come home safely from work to his wife and kids that day, like every other day,” CSEA Central Region President Kenny Greenleaf said. “If people would just obey the law and be more careful, deaths like his would be avoidable.”
The state DOT held a plow naming contest during the New York State Fair in 2021, the same year a memorial was unveiled to honor highway workers killed on the job.
Multiple names were submitted, but ultimately ‘Howe’s Plow’ was chosen to memorialize Howe’s name and to promote work zone safety.
“While nothing can undo this tragedy, today we come together as a community to ensure that Matt’s memory and legacy remains a part of our community and serves as a reminder to all to take extra care on our roads and highways to prevent future tragedies from taking place,” State Sen. Fred Akshar said at the plow naming ceremony.
‘Slow down, move over’
CSEA Southern Tier State Employees Local President Andrew Maroney recalled working alongside Howe in Binghamton when he first started with DOT.
He’s thankful that Howe will be remembered in this way and hopeful it will serve as a further reminder about work zone safety.
“People are going to ask about why the plow is named that and then we can take the time to educate people about what happened and work zone safety,” Maroney said.
Maroney said work zone safety is constantly in the back of his mind while on the job, so much so that it extends to his daily commute and whenever his wife and kids are in the car.
“Doing this line of work, and personally knowing Matt, it makes you change your whole perspective,” Maroney said. “DOT workers don’t get enough recognition for the work we do.”
— Nicholas Newcomb