|COMMISSION NEWS RELEASE|
|Pennsylvania Turnpike Braces for 2.7 Million Vehicles during Thanksgiving
Officials remind motorists to quit texting on the Turnpike during the holiday.
|HARRISBURG, PA (11/22/2010)(readMedia)-- Pennsylvania Turnpike officials expect more than 2.7 million vehicles to travel the Turnpike throughout the five-day Thanksgiving Holiday period starting this Wednesday through Sunday. It's the busiest holiday of the year on the toll-road system.
As a result, construction and maintenance work has been modified to allow maximum use of the roadway; at least four lanes will be open beginning 3 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 23 until 6 a.m. on Monday, Nov. 29, except in emergencies. Some roadwork that does not impact lanes may continue behind barriers in some areas, reducing shoulder widths.
Motorists should be aware of the likelihood of slow-moving and periodic stopped traffic on Wednesday and Sunday. The Turnpike expects traffic volumes will be heaviest Wednesday from 3 p.m. until 8 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 8 p.m.
Officials are forecasting that about 690,000 vehicles will take to the Turnpike on Wednesday and some 540,000 vehicles on Sunday.
Turnpike maintenance crews, State Farm Safety Patrols, and the Pennsylvania State Police are increasing forces to assist stranded motorists, keep traffic moving and respond to emergencies.
With the holiday season under way, the Turnpike's State Police Troop reminds motorists that texting while driving - which is always an unsafe habit - is more dangerous now with higher holiday traffic volumes and the chance of nasty weather.
"When you try to text while driving, you endanger your own safety and the lives of everyone else on the road," said Cpl. Richard N. Dean of the Pennsylvania State Police Troop T, the unit in charge of Turnpike patrols. "We have seen too many accidents where texting behind the wheel ended in tragedy and other travelers became innocent victims of another driver's careless behavior."
Earlier this fall, the Turnpike Commission launched a statewide safety campaign to try and curtail texting-related crashes on the state's toll highways. New "quit-texting" signs were put up at toll plazas, rest stops and on roadside message boards across the Turnpike system.
"If you see an unsafe or aggressive drivers 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 arrive alive."
To promote the importance of safety during Thanksgiving, the Turnpike is sponsoring free Safety Break events on Nov. 24 from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Allentown Service Plaza on the Northeastern Extension and the Sideling Hill Service Plaza on the east-west mainline. Besides spreading the no-texting message, safety officials will be offering tips on getting prepared for winter driving. Turnpike personnel will be on site to distribute handouts, provide demonstrations and answer questions.
The Allentown plaza is between the Lehigh Valley and Quakertown exits on I-476 and the Sideling Hill facility is between the Breezewood and Fort Littleton exits on I-76. The travel plazas are accessible to traffic from both directions.
To better plan ahead for holiday travels, Turnpike motorists can get real-time information about roadway conditions via the Turnpike Roadway Information Program, or "TRIP," by visiting www.paturnpike.com or calling 1-866-976-TRIP (8747). Officials advise motorists headed for the Turnpike to check out conditions before they leave.
In case of an accident, breakdown or other emergency, motorists can utilize the yellow emergency call boxes on the shoulder or dial *-11 or 1-800-332-3880 to receive aid. Be prepared to give your milepost location and direction of travel and move the involved vehicles out of active travel lanes if possible.
As an extra precaution, over-dimensional commercial vehicles (trucks exceeding 8-1/2 feet wide, 85 feet long, 13-1/2 feet high or 100,000 pounds gross weight) will be restricted from traveling the Pennsylvania Turnpike beginning sundown Nov. 23 to sunrise Nov. 29.