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  Pa. Turnpike Forewarns Travelers of Possible Reduced Speeds and Trailer Restrictions This Weekend
State Turnpike Commission is taking other steps to prepare for potential onslaught of Hurricane Irene.

HARRISBURG, PA (08/26/2011)(readMedia)-- The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission is prepared to reduce speed limits and restrict small utility and recreational trailers from parts of the toll road this weekend if roadway and weather conditions from Hurricane Irene necessitate. As a result, the commission advises weekend travelers to learn of any such restrictions before they depart by visiting or calling 1-866-976-TRIP (8747).

The Turnpike is bracing for heavier-than-usual traffic volumes as residents in affected areas pack up and move westward out of the path of this hurricane. Lowering the speed limit and restricting lightweight trailers in some areas will reduce the risk of accidents and help keep traffic moving safely during this emergency.

In case of a trailer restriction, certain towed equipment would be prohibited from entering the Pennsylvania Turnpike system. The restriction -likely implemented on just the eastern sections of Turnpike - would initially be limited to lightweight utility trailers including rental trailers, boat and horse trailers, towed mobile homes, campers and recreational trailers. If travel conditions continue to worsen, larger trailers, including commercial tractor trailers and others, could be also restricted.

The commission expects any speed-limit restrictions would be regionally implemented depending on the severity of conditions such as wind speed, visibility and rainfall. The reduced speed limit is likely to be set at 45 miles per hour but could vary depending on circumstances. The usual speed limit on the Pennsylvania Turnpike is 65 miles per hour in most areas and 55 in some urbanized areas and near tunnels.

"We activated our internal Emergency Action Plan at the Turnpike this morning and are operating at a heightened level of awareness with increased staff," Turnpike CEO Roger Nutt said. "We're working closely with PEMA and other agencies and with neighboring states to be prepared to maintain mobility during the storm so that citizens and response teams can get to where they're going."

Turnpike maintenance crews have already ensured that roadway storm drains are clear of debris and properly functioning to reduce the chance of pooling of rainwater on the highway, called ponding. In addition, maintenance personnel and equipment from the central and western regions of the state are preparing to be staged near potential problem areas in the east where extra resources are likely to be needed both on or off the Turnpike.

Along with the above measures, the Turnpike has postponed construction activity planned this weekend in Bedford and Somerset counties that would have impacted traffic flow. Even though the hurricane is not forecast to affect these areas, the roadway must remain open to accommodate the movement of utility and emergency vehicles dispatched for storm response.

In addition, the Turnpike has put in place an emergency vehicle recovery policy, effective now through the end of the storm, wherein disabled or abandoned vehicles will immediately be towed off the system by authorized service providers - another measure required to keep traffic moving and the highway open.

Turnpike travelers can get up-to-date information by calling 1-866-976-TRIP (8747). This toll-free number gives audio advisories for the region in which you are traveling, including delays and closures due to accidents or weather. Online, the Interactive Travel Map at delivers a snapshot of conditions across the Turnpike, including traffic cams, at-a-glance traffic-flow status, weather conditions, audio advisories and more.