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
PENNSYLVANIA TURNPIKE BRACES FOR INCREASED HOLIDAY TRAFFIC
— 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
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.
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.”
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