Media & Public Relations

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Carl DeFebo
manager, Media & Public Relations
Pennsylvania turnpike Commission
Desk (717) 920-7176

December 23, 2008

Pennsylvania Turnpike Braces for Holiday Traffic and Weather

Travelers urged to call 1.866.976.8747 for roadway information.

HARRISBURG, PA. (DEC. 23, 2008) - The Pennsylvania Turnpike reassures travelers that it is ready to confront wintry weather and handle increased traffic expected during the holiday period. Turnpike officials anticipate the busiest travel times will be Wednesday, Dec. 24 from around 3 p.m. until 7 p.m. and on Sunday, Dec. 28 from noon until 6 p.m. A weather event could cause increased congestion and added delays.

"Regardless of what weather lies ahead, the Pennsylvania Turnpike is prepared to provide the highest level of service and the safest possible roadway," said Turnpike CEO Joe Brimmeier.

The Turnpike's maintenance department is committed to providing a safe highway throughout the year. That commitment is backed up by a $5 million annual wintertime materials maintenance budget - about 8 percent of the total annual maintenance budget.

When bad weather strikes, the Turnpike's maintenance department deploys an impressive army of resources, including:

  • a staff of 750 field personnel in 21 maintenance facilities throughout the system;
  • an arsenal of equipment including 278 plow-and-spreader dump trucks and 54 front-end loaders;
  • 130,000 tons (or 260 million pounds estimated annual usage) of salt, anti-skid material and calcium;
  • a longstanding bare-pavement plowing policy.

"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 Michael P. Haney. "This demonstrates our commitment to provide the clearest possible surface, and it distinguishes us from other roads."

Officials expect more than 4.5 million vehicles will travel the Turnpike from Wednesday, Dec. 24 through Thursday, Jan. 1. During the holiday, extra State Police will patrol the Turnpike, looking for speeders, aggressive motorists, drunk and aggressive drivers and disabled vehicles. Added maintenance crews will also be on hand to battle the weather and provide assistance.

In addition, the State Farm Safety Patrol - made up of Turnpike vehicles staffed by Turnpike workers - will patrol the roadway to identify and report problems and render aid. During the holiday, the red-and-white safety patrols will be augmented with supplementary Turnpike safety workers.

With winter weather forecast in the coming days, the Turnpike reminds travelers to get real-time roadway information by calling 1.866.976.TRIP (866.976.8747). TRIP, the toll-free Turnpike Roadway Information Program, gathers information through data and video feeds from the Turnpike's Traffic Operations Center along with updates from crews, police and responders.

Live traffic and weather conditions are available at the Turnpike's web page, Holiday travelers are encouraged to check conditions from home before they depart.

In case of emergency, dial *11 on your mobile phone. This toll-free number connects you with a traffic operations center dispatcher who will alert responders. You'll need to tell the dispatcher your milepost location. If you can't use a mobile phone or don't know your location, use one of the bright-yellow call boxes located along the shoulder.

Pennsylvania State Police Capt. William A. Horgas, commanding officer of Troop T, cautions Turnpike motorists that stopping in a travel lane on any interstate creates a hazardous situation with an increased chance of a disastrous collision.

"Drivers need to avoid, if possible, stopping in a travel lane, even the right lane," he said. "If your vehicle becomes disabled or if you're in a fender bender, quickly get the vehicle off the roadway and pull as far away from moving traffic as possible."

And since the forecast is likely to include some kind of precipitation, the Turnpike reminds drivers that you are required to turn on your headlights when your windshield wipers are in use. Daytime running lights are not enough. Your taillights must be illuminated as well.

Finally, to keep interstate traffic safely flowing during the heavily traveled holiday season, the Turnpike reminds all drivers to heed Pennsylvania's "drive right, pass left" rule, as the signs say. In other words, stay in the right travel lane except to pass another vehicle, and never pass on the right.

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

REMINDER: Pa. Turnpike tolls will increase 25 percent on Sunday, Jan. 4, 2009. With the increase - first announced in July, 2007 - the most-common passenger-vehicle rate will go up from 75 cents to 95 cents; the most-common truck rate will go from $6.25 up to $7.85. For the first time, nearly all of the toll-increase proceeds are earmarked for non-Turnpike projects. In fact, 90 percent of the funds generated will be used by PennDOT in accordance with Act 44, passed by the General Assembly and signed into law by Gov. Ed Rendell in July 2007. Under Act 44, the Turnpike will provide Pennsylvania with $2.5 billion in supplemental transportation funding from FY2008 to FY2010 - benefitting each of the 67 counties across the commonwealth.