CONTACT: Carl DeFebo
(m) 717.645.2265
(d) 717.831.7176
January 25, 2016

PA Turnpike Launches its After-Action Review of Weekend Incident Today

Turnpike says it will refund all tolls for any stranded motorist who was charged.

 The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission today announced that it has launched a two-phase After-Action Review (AAR) of its response to and management of an incident that occurred during an epic blizzard over the weekend resulting in hundreds of travelers being stranded for 24 hours or more on a 16-mile section of westbound Interstate 70/76 in Somerset and Bedford Counties.

“Given the magnitude of this event, we unquestionably need to examine the response and decision-making process undertaken,” said PA Turnpike Chairman Sean Logan of Monroeville. “We owe that to the public and especially those who were greatly inconvenienced by being stranded for many hours on our system.”

The first phase of the AAR, which got under way today, is the information-gathering phase; it will involve the collection of data for a timeline of the response and traffic-management decisions and the actions taken such as lowering the speed limit, banning trucks and detouring traffic off the highway. This initial AAR phase is expected to be a thorough yet swift process, to be concluded in about a week.

Phase 2 of the AAR will be an examination of the various decisions made and actions taken before, during and after the event along with an analysis of the consequences of those decisions and actions. Phase 2 will also offer recommendations on how the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission might better coordinate with internal and external stakeholders when responding to a blizzard of this scale. Phase 2 is likely to take longer than the first phase, possibly two to four weeks.

“As we kick off this review, I want to make it perfectly clear that we focused every available resource on getting these folks back on the road without serious injury or worse. All our employees — and everyone on the team of 300 responders from dozens of agencies — performed amazingly during one of the most challenging rescue efforts to be carried out on the Pennsylvania Turnpike,” Logan said. “From the beginning of this effort, we faced difficult circumstances made worse by topography and extreme weather. In the end, we were pleased that we were able to provide fuel, food and water, that everyone stayed relatively warm and that we avoided serious injury to customers and responders alike. Everybody was able to make it home only because of the efforts of this combined response team.

“Having said that, I want to make it clear that if we could have done better, then we’ll accept that and learn from it.”

Logan added that he wants to be sure none of the stranded travelers were charged for having endured this experience. Beginning at 6 p.m. on Jan. 23, cash tolls were waived between the Bedford Interchange (Exit #146) and the Warrendale Toll Plaza (Milepost #30) in response to the Jan. 22 incident. Cash collection resumed at 9:30 a.m. on Jan. 24 with instructions to collectors to waive tolls from all vehicles exiting the system with a toll ticket from Jan. 22 or 23. E-ZPass tolls were collected but will be refunded after the back office reviews transaction records to determine who was involved in the backlog. Those tolls will be manually removed from the E-ZPass accounts.

“If any stranded customers were inadvertently charged a toll for that trip then we want to make it right,” Logan said. “We are asking those customers call us at 1-800-331-3414 so we can provide a full and prompt refund.”