Traffic Engineering and Operations

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Traffic Engineering and Operations

Operations center overview with multiple computer screens

Traffic engineering and operations on rural and urban highways are diverse, involving responses to fires, crashes, stalled vehicles, fallen power lines, and the like. Crashes on the PA Turnpike vary in nature from very simple fender benders involving one vehicle to more complex incidents involving multiple tractor-trailers, carrying hazardous materials, resulting in injuries and the threat of human life.

The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission works constantly to limit the probability of incidents of the PA Turnpike, however, incidents still occur. That is why the Commission has established a sophisticated incident detection and response network that spans the entire Turnpike System. Early warning incident detection measures help to promote safety and issue prompt responses along the entire Pennsylvania Turnpike System.

The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission maintains a 24 hours a day, 365 days a year Traffic Operations Center located in the Administration Building in Harrisburg. Serving as the hub of all PA Turnpike communications, the Traffic Operations Center continuously monitors PA Turnpike activities via an extensive radio system. Roadway conditions, construction status and weather conditions are all monitored at the Center. The Center also serves as the focal point for all PA Turnpike incident management activities.

The Traffic Operations Center

The Traffic Operations Center handles radio communications for Commission personnel, customers, State Police, authorized services, and emergency fire and medical services. The Center is equipped with a computer-aided dispatch (CAD) system designed to provide the Commission's radio operators with instantaneous access to the closest emergency services and to the State Police for any incident at any point on the Turnpike System. When a radio operator receives a call via radio, telephone, or cellular *11, the operator enters the reported location of the incident into the CAD system. The system responds immediately with all the information required to handle the situation.

The Traffic Operations Center is staffed with highly trained personnel who are ready and willing to assist motorists around the clock. A State Police corporal is on duty at all times along with one of four Communications Duty Officers assigned to provide 24 hour management supervision of the Center.

The Traffic Operations Center handles approximately 400 calls and 11,000 radio transmissions per day.

Unified Incident Command

In July 2001, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, as part of a cooperative effort between the Pennsylvania Fire & Emergency Services Institute, the Pennsylvania State Fire Commissioner, the Pennsylvania State Fire Academy, the Pennsylvania State Police, and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT), began formulating a new model for Unified Incident Command to be utilized on the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

Unified Incident Command is a team effort that allows all the agencies with responsibilities for an incident to establish a common set of goals and objectives to which all agencies can subscribe. The Unified Incident Command system is not so much about who is in charge as it is about who is in charge of what. Unified Incident Command enables multiple agencies, who are responding to an incident, to coordinate the effort of that response through one incident manager. The system is presently being used by many agencies throughout the country.

The focus of Unified Incident Command is on combining the knowledge, abilities, and resources of all emergency response agencies and making full use of all available technology. The primary objectives of Unified Incident Command are to arrive on the scene as quickly as possible, conduct a thorough and accurate assessment of the incident (which may vary quite dramatically in nature), secure the scene of the incident, protect the workers at the scene, and ensure that the backlog resulting from the incident is managed in a safe fashion.

The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission is committed to ensuring that the Unified Incident Command model is successful and remains operational when implemented on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. The PA Turnpike supports that commitment, not only in terms of personnel, but also in terms of dollars and training to ensure that the training curriculum is appropriate and timely, and effectively responds to the needs of our customers.

Highway incidents require a multidisciplinary approach. Unified Incident Command provides for that approach. The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission is very excited to be part of formulating this new model for Unified Incident Command that will more effectively and efficiently deliver responses to incidents on our roadway.