Kathy Liebler
                        Director of Public Information

C  O  M  M  I  S  S  I  O  N       N  E  W  S       R  E  L  E  A  S  E


Kathy Liebler  (717) 939-9551, Ext. 2840
Bill Capone  (717) 939-9551, Ext. 3040
Tom Fox  (724) 755-5260

March 30, 2001


Urges Customers To Think "55 for 55"

CARLISLE – (PA) -- The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission today announced that effective April 3, 2001, several safety initiatives will be implemented on a 55 mile stretch of the Turnpike, from milepost 75 at Interchange # 8, New Stanton, to milepost 130, 15 miles west of Interchange 11, Bedford.

"Highway safety and customer service is our highest priority," said Executive Director John Durbin. "The maintenance of a safe roadway is an essential component of customer service. That is the foundation for this ambitious undertaking."

Durbin explained that one of the most significant efforts the Commission is making to help ensure the safe travel of Turnpike customers, is the reduction of the speed limit from 65 mph to 55 mph along the 55 mile long section of roadway between mileposts 75 through 130. "We are asking our customers who are traveling through this corridor to think of the speed reduction in terms of "55 for 55," he said.

"Several total reconstruction projects, where the original 160 mile long Turnpike from Carlisle to Irwin is being rebuilt from the ground up, are either underway or planned over the next eight to ten years. Major road and bridge work is involved in these construction projects," Durbin said.

He explained that in this particular corridor the Commission has already completed total reconstruction of the Turnpike from milepost 94 to 99 and that construction is underway from milepost 76 to 85. Other total reconstruction projects are scheduled to begin next year from milepost 85 to 94 and 109 to 122.

"That factor combined with the roadway geometry and topography of the area, the existence of several significant curves and the high percentage of commercial traffic in this region require that we embark on several important and necessary safety measures. Reducing the speed limit is just one component," Durbin said.

Other steps the Turnpike is taking to enhance safety in this region are improved speed limit and curve warning signs and the continuation of roadway reconstruction efforts that include straightening some curves, shoulder widening, median widening, improved pavement markings and upgrading guide rail.

Also, Turnpike officials said the Pennsylvania State Police will strengthen enforcement efforts through an increase in patrol presence. Last week the Turnpike announced the deployment of three "slick-top" patrol cars that state police will use to help identify aggressive drivers and improve safety on the Turnpike.

The vehicles are equipped with strobe lighting bars and do not have the traditional rooftop emergency lighting bars. Without the lights activated, the low profile patrol cars aren’t as noticeable as marked patrol vehicles with standard lighting. However, when the new lights are activated, they quickly will gain the attention of violators.

Capt. David Points, commanding officer of Troop T that patrols the Turnpike said, "We are serious about reducing crashes and saving lives. We will strictly enforce the 55-mile per hour speed limit and all sections of the Vehicle Code that impact on traffic safety. We are increasing the visibility of Troopers patrolling the reduced speed area in marked and unmarked patrol vehicles. Aircraft will also monitor speeds.

Points emphasized that the speed limit in this corridor now changes four times, between 55 mph and 65 mph. "By reducing the speed to 55 miles per hour throughout the corridor, we will establish consistency making enforcement easier." He added that the 55-mile per hour speed limit, will be posted at 43 separate sign locations, eastbound and westbound combined.

Several months ago in its continuing effort to evaluate the state of the Turnpike and maintain a high level of safety and operation, the Commission requested HNTB Corporation of Philadelphia to perform a system safety assessment of the Turnpike. The goal was to identify both general and specific areas of concern and offer recommendations and options on how to improve operations.

Besides speed reduction, improved signing and continued road reconstruction, other recommendations include a timely and consistent review of the Turnpike to help ensure continued safe operation, development of a plan and alternatives to isolate and mitigate cluster locations on the Turnpike where incidents have a higher potential of occurring and the development of a safety awareness campaign to inform and educate Turnpike customers about highway safety.

"The safety initiatives we are taking will help solidify the Pennsylvania Turnpike’s reputation as one of the safest highways in the nation," Durbin said. "There is no one single action that will reduce incidents and save lives. Instead, we must develop a comprehensive program of safety awareness, safety education and safety enforcement. That is our goal. Our customers expect and deserve no less."


 P.O. Box 67676, Harrisburg, PA 17106-7676         Phone: (717) 939-9551         Fax: (717) 986-9649