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JUST ASKING -- TROOPER REDISH

It'd be hard to imagine Starsky and Hutch pulling a shift like this.

You've seen him if you've driven to the Kensington Expressway from the 198 any time in the last month -- the state trooper who is at turns standing next to or sitting in his cruiser, rooftop lights spinning, but no emergency anywhere in sight.

There is no radar gun mounted to his dash. There has been no accident and no one has been shot. Drivers speed past and the trooper doesn't move; he simply gazes into the distance.

Just what is he doing?

After weeks of wonder, it was time to get an answer. Risking life and limb, we pulled to the shoulder on a recent evening and found Trooper Peter Reddish, a 15-year veteran of the state police and a Buffalo native, just completing his tour. He was nice enough to leave his gun holstered.

I don't think people have a clear idea of why you're here. I know it's not the case, but it doesn't look like you guys are really doing anything. What is your assignment?

Well, what it is, is that they've got this all narrowed down up where they're working, the construction up there. A tractor-trailer wouldn't fit through. There are signs that say "No Trucks," but if they miss them and come up here anyway, they can't make the bend and we've got a real problem.

Our job is to make sure no tractor-trailers come through here. They could try to keep squeezing around that corner up there and the possibility is that the trailer would top the whole thing over, right off that bridge onto 33. Then you'd have a catastrophe. Possibly crushed cars, and we'd have to close the road.

Can you give me an idea what your day is like? This must be mind-numbingly boring.

Well, it is. As you can see, there's not that many trucks right now. During the day there were a lot more. In fact, it gets so boring I started counting how many trucks there were. One out of every 20 trucks misses those signs and actually tries to come through here.

It's a 12-hour shift. You bring your lunch and whatever else you need. It's a little tedious, but I've worked longer shifts doing more tedious things.

What's the feeling at the barracks about this post?
It's not very well-liked. Of course, on the other hand, it's voluntary, because it's time and a half. We're here on our days off.

What kind of reaction are you getting from passing drivers? Are you getting people who don't know what you're looking for so they're careful about everything?

I've seen a few of them buckle up. That's another thing. It's so boring that I started counting how many people had seat belts on before they saw me. It's about 80 percent. Most of them already had them on.

Here's one I've got to ask. You've got that port-a-john back there, but you're here for 12 hours and can't take your eyes off the road. Do you have to wait all day to go use that thing?

That thing there, it has those grates that -- believe it or not -- you can look through. If you time it right, you know; I've found that there's a morning rush and then there's a little bit of a lull. And if you can get down there and see where traffic's got a pretty big gap in it. . . . It's not easy.

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