HARRISBURG PA. (Nov. 21, 2006) — The Pennsylvania Turnpike is taking steps to get ready for a heavily traveled Thanksgiving holiday; it’s the busiest holiday of the year on the 537-mile toll road. Officials expect more than 2.7 million vehicles will travel the Pennsylvania Turnpike during the five-day holiday period that runs Wednesday through Sunday.
In preparation, planned construction and maintenance work will be modified to allow maximum use of the roadway; at least four lanes will be open from 3 p.m. Tuesday Nov. 21 until 6 a.m. on Monday Nov. 27, except in emergencies. Some roadwork that does not impact travel lanes will continue behind barriers in certain areas, reducing shoulder widths. Drivers should remain cautious in these areas.
The Turnpike expects traffic volumes will peak on Wednesday and Sunday, particularly between 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. “Thanksgiving motorists should be aware of the likelihood of slow-moving traffic and heavy volumes on the Turnpike,” said Turnpike CEO Joe Brimmeier. “If it’s at all possible, rearrange your travel plans to avoid those peak hours. Leaving a few hours earlier or later could save some time.”
As a safety measure, Brimmeier said, “if you do encounter slow or stopped traffic, remember to turn on your headlights and four-way flashers and keep ample distance from the vehicle ahead of you.”
Maintenance crews, safety patrols, and the Pennsylvania State Police will boost their forces over the holiday to assist stranded motorists, keep traffic moving smoothly and respond to any Turnpike emergencies. Should the holiday forecast include snow, sleet or freezing rain, Turnpike maintenance crews are prepared to respond 24-hours-a-day at a moment’s notice to keep the highway open.
Before departing, travelers should call the Turnpike’s toll-free customer assistance center at 1-800-331-3414 to get updated roadway and weather information. This year, motorists can also take advantage of an enhanced Turnpike web site at www.paturnpike.com. The Turnpike has made a number of improvements to provide more detailed, up-to-the-minute traffic and weather information.
A new, online travel map gives a quick, easy view of conditions across the Turnpike. The interactive map displays real-time information on traffic and weather to help motorists plan ahead. By clicking on the appropriate symbol, travelers can see precisely where traffic is being slowed, stopped, or detoured as a result of highway incidents or construction. The map features a color-coded Turnpike graphic; green means free-flowing, yellow for congested and red for stop-and-go. Multiple traffic cams provide views of the busiest interchanges. Traffic-cam shots of work zones across the Turnpike are also online.
In case of an accident, breakdown or medical emergency on the Turnpike, motorists can utilize one of the bright-yellow call boxes located along the shoulder. In such an event, it is crucial all vehicles involved are moved safely out of travel lanes if possible. Cellular phone users can dial *11 or 1-800-332-3880 for emergency aid. Be prepared to give your milepost location and direction of travel.
Now with the hustle-bustle of the holiday season officially under way, the Pennsylvania State Police reminds motorists that aggressive behavior on the highway is an unnecessary risk.
“Tailgating, speeding and weaving in and out of traffic leads to nothing but trouble,” said Cpl. Richard N. Dean of the Pennsylvania State Police Troop T. “In fact, aggressive driving causes an increasing number of severe motor-vehicle injuries and fatalities.” State troopers will be seeking — and citing — aggressive drivers this Thanksgiving. “If you see an aggressive driver on the Turnpike, you can get a state-police response by dialing *11 on your mobile phone,” Cpl. Dean said. “Slow down, take a deep breath and relax to ensure that you, your passengers and other holiday travelers safely arrive at their destinations.”
Brimmeier reminded Thanksgiving travelers to take advantage of the E-ZPass electronic toll-collection as a way to get there quicker — without having to wait in line. “Holidays are the best time for E-ZPass, because it can help get your celebration started sooner,” Brimmeier said. “So if you don’t already have E-ZPass, take a few minutes to sign up today.”
To get E-ZPass, visit www.paturnpike.com or call 1-877-PENN-PASS (1-877-736-6727). E-ZPass transponders are available at dozens of AAA offices throughout Pennsylvania and at special vending machines at some Turnpike rest stops. To better enable the free flow of traffic, oversized and overweight trucks will be temporarily prohibited from the Pennsylvania Turnpike during the holiday beginning at sundown Tuesday, Nov. 21 until sunrise Monday, Nov. 27. This restriction applies to any truck that exceeds one or more of these dimensions: 10 feet wide, 85 feet long, 13 ½ feet high or 100,000 pounds gross weight.