Kathy Liebler

Manager, Public Affairs & Media Relations

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


Carl DeFebo, 717-939-9551 ext. 2934

December 20, 2001



     HARRISBURG, Pa. — Officials at the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission in Harrisburg are reassuring holiday travelers that the Turnpike is ready to handle the increased traffic volumes during the upcoming Christmas and New Year holiday periods. Turnpike officials expect more than 3 million vehicles will travel “America’s First Superhighway” during the Christmas and New Year timeframe.

     “Cheap gas prices and a general reluctance to fly could lead to higher-than-normal holiday traffic volumes this year,” cautioned Turnpike Executive Director John T. Durbin. “We’re encouraging all holiday travelers to plan ahead, drive cautiously, and always leave extra time to arrive safely at your destination.”

     In preparation for the holidays, all programmed Turnpike construction and maintenance work will be suspended to provide maximum use of the roadway. At least four travel lanes will be kept open on the entire Turnpike system beginning at 3 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 21 until 7 a.m. on Thursday, Jan. 3.

     Turnpike maintenance crews, safety patrols and the Pennsylvania State Police will boost their forces over the holiday period to assist stranded motorists on the highway. In addition to patrolling for speeders, troopers will be looking for drivers who appear to be sleepy or intoxicated.

     Capt. David K. Points, Turnpike State Police commanding officer, urged motorists to wear seat belts and use child-safety restraints. “Seat-belt and child-restraint laws will be strictly enforced, especially during peak travel times associated with the holiday,” he said.

     Holiday travelers should remember that E-ZPass, the Turnpike’s electronic toll-collection system, is now operational system-wide at Interchange 1 through 37 for passenger vehicles only. Cash-paying customers are reminded that they can still obtain a ticket and pay their tolls in the lanes marked “E-ZPass and Tickets.” However, those paying by traditional means must avoid the lanes marked “E-ZPass Only.”

     As an added precaution, oversized and overweight tractor trailers are banned on the Turnpike during the holiday beginning at noon on Saturday Dec. 22 until sunrise on Thursday Dec. 27. Restrictions apply to all vehicles exceeding one or more of the following criteria: 10 feet wide; 85 feet long; 13 ½ feet high; and 100,000 pounds gross vehicle weight.

     Should motorists require aid while traveling the Turnpike, yellow emergency call boxes are located at one-mile intervals to enable travelers to immediately alert dispatchers in Harrisburg. Mobile phone users can also dial *11 for emergency assistance.

     To help avoid drowsy driving, motorists are encouraged to stop at any of the Turnpike’s 22 service plazas. The service plazas will be open around the clock for motorists in need of restrooms, fuel and food.

     Holiday travelers can also rest assured that the Turnpike is ready to deal with whatever weather conditions Mother Nature may have in store for Pennsylvania this year. “Regardless of what weather lies ahead, the Pennsylvania Turnpike is well prepared to provide customers with the highest level of service and the safest possible roadway,” said Executive Director Durbin.

     The Turnpike’s maintenance department is committed to providing a safe highway throughout the year. That commitment is backed up by a $6 million annual wintertime maintenance budget. When bad weather strikes, the Turnpike deploys an impressive army of resources including 750 field personnel in 20 facilities, 225 plow-and-spreader dump trucks, 45 front-end loaders and 125,000 tons of salt, anti-skid and calcium.  

     “Our objective is to achieve bare-pavement conditions as soon as possible after a snowstorm hits and to maintain these conditions during the life of the storm,” said Maintenance Director Robert M. Wallett. “This demonstrates our commitment to provide the clearest possible surface, and it distinguishes us from other roads.”

     To avoid accidents, Wallett suggests a number of tips for motorists driving near plows on the Turnpike.:

·        The safest place to drive during a snowstorm is behind a plow, but motorists should not tailgate.

·        A snowplow has more blind spots than a full-sized tractor-trailer truck. Motorists should always keep the snowplow's outside mirrors in sight.

·        When passing a plow, motorists should signal first; avoid riding side-by-side with a plow.

·        Watch for plows clearing medians, service plazas and toll plazas and give them plenty of room.

In addition, motorists are urged to give their vehicles a safety check before embarking on their journeys. “Something as simple as a flat tire can cause unneeded delays and aggravation,” Wallett said. “It’s always smart to make repairs beforehand and to pack emergency items like a blanket, flares, a flashlight and a shovel.”

Before departing, travelers should call the Turnpike’s toll-free weather line at 1-800-331-3414 for roadway and weather information or visit www.paturnpike.com for updates. New on the Turnpike site this year is an emergency notification system that provides travelers with real-time information on emergency road conditions, severe weather, traffic delays and other significant events on and along the Pennsylvania Turnpike. The Turnpike home page also features a wide array of pertinent traveler information including an interactive travel map, a toll/mileage calculator and service plaza information.

The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission wishes everyone a safe and enjoyable holiday season.


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