|Pa. Turnpike Expecting 2.7 Million Vehicles Over Thanksgiving
With snow in the forecast, motorists urged to drive safely.
|The most heavily traveled holiday of the year is Thanksgiving, and this year more than 2.7 million drivers are expected to travel the Pa. Turnpike from today to Dec. 1. With snow in the forecast, Turnpike officials are asking motorists to be more alert and cautious while traveling.
"The Pa. Turnpike has a reputation for providing unparalleled winter maintenance, keeping the roadway free of snow and ice no matter what it takes," says CEO Mark Compton. "As always, we’re prepared to deal with whatever conditions arise on the busiest travel day of the year."
Compton reminds holiday motorists to use extreme caution if slick roadway conditions are present this Thanksgiving – especially when maintenance crews are actively plowing or applying salt.
"We strongly advise motorists to never pass or tailgate a snowplow or plow train," Compton says. "Not only is it extremely dangerous because of operator visibility restrictions, it makes no sense because the pavement in front of our trucks is likely covered in snow or ice."
If necessary, the PA Turnpike will reduce the speed limit to allow maintenance crews to do their job safely and to protect customers. In addition, the Turnpike may restrict certain types of vehicles – such as empty or double tractor-trailers – if conditions warrant.
The day before Thanksgiving is generally the single busiest day of the year on the Turnpike, which could see as many as 500,000 vehicles this year. Traffic volumes will be heaviest Wednesday from 3 p.m. until 8 p.m. and Sunday from noon until 8 p.m. Motorists should be aware of the probability of slow-moving and stopped traffic, especially on Wednesday and Sunday.
To keep the highway safe, any routine construction activity will be suspended to allow full use of the roadway; all lanes will be available to traffic beginning at 3 p.m. today until 6 a.m. on Dec. 1, except in case of emergencies. Some construction activity that does not impact lanes may continue behind barriers in limited areas, reducing shoulder widths.
Turnpike maintenance crews, State Farm Safety Patrols and the Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) will be available to assist stranded motorists, keep traffic moving and respond to emergencies.
As this could be the first significant snow for many, the PSP reminds drivers that wintertime driving often requires reducing your speed to below the posted limit — even in an all-wheel or four-wheel drive vehicle.
"If the forecast holds true, travelers need to recognize that getting there is going to take longer — perhaps considerably longer — than on dry roads," says Captain Gregory M. Bacher, commanding officer of Troop T, the division in charge of Turnpike patrols. "Make allowances so you can take your time and get there safely, whether that means leaving early or even delaying your travel plans."
Another important winter-driving recommendation: If the weather looks questionable, call or go online to find out what's happening on the Turnpike before you venture out. The best way to check Turnpike conditions is the Turnpike Roadway Information Program, or TRIP. TRIP delivers alerts via an Interactive Travel Map, a smartphone app, a toll-free advisory system and the Preferred Traveler e-mail and text-message system. Turnpike travelers can learn more about TRIP at www.paturnpike.com.
In case of an accident, breakdown or other emergency, motorists can call for assistance by dialing *11 on cell phones or by deploying one of the yellow callboxes on the shoulder. Be prepared to give the milepost location and direction of travel, and move the vehicles involved out of active travel lanes if possible.
Safe driving tips will be offered to Turnpike motorists on Nov. 26 at the New Stanton Service Plaza in Westmoreland County at milepost 78 during a Safety Break event from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Travelers headed westbound are reminded that the North Midway Service Plaza at milepost 147 is closed while undergoing reconstruction.