PennDOT: Avoid unnecessary travel during storm


PennDOT is advising motorists to avoid all unnecessary travel during an upcoming storm tonight and in the morning. Travel restrictions are in place on trucks and other vehicles on certain roadways around the state. Those restrictions will remain in place until conditions warrant their removal, according to a PennDOT news release.

Vehicle restrictions began at 7 p.m. on the following roadways:

  • Interstate 70 in both directions from the Pennsylvania Turnpike (Interstate 76) to the Maryland state line;
  • Pennsylvania Turnpike (Interstate 76) between the New Stanton and Breezewood interchanges;
  • The entire length of Interstate 83 in both directions; and
  • The entire length of Interstate 99 in both directions.

Effective 10 p.m., vehicle restrictions will begin on Interstate 80 from Interstate 79 to Interstate 81.

RELATED: Snow, sleet expected tonight

Vehicles not permitted on affected roadways:

  • Tractors without trailers;
  • Tractor-trailers towing unloaded or lightly loaded enclosed trailers, open trailers or tank trailers;
  • Tractors towing unloaded or lightly loaded tandem trailers;
  • Enclosed cargo delivery trucks that meet the definition of a CMV;
  • Passenger vehicles (cars, SUV’s, pickup trucks, etc.) towing trailers;
  • Recreational vehicles/motorhomes;
  • School buses, commercial buses and motor coaches not carrying chains or Alternate Traction Devices (ATD’s); and
  • motorcycles.

Speed limits will be 45 mph on these roadways for all vehicles while the vehicle restrictions are in place. Commercial vehicles not affected by the bans must move to the right lane, unless work zone signage indicates otherwise. Speed restrictions could be added on other interstates, depending on changing conditions.

Restrictions will be posted on message boards, the 511PA traveler information website  and smartphone apps. Motorists can also sign up for alerts here by clicking on “Personal Alerts” in the left-hand menu.

Forecasts call for icy conditions in many areas tonight and in the morning. PennDOT urges motorists to avoid unnecessary travel if at all possible.

If travel is necessary, use caution, reduce speeds and be aware of changing weather conditions. PennDOT has been pre-treating roadways to help prevent ice from forming a bond with the pavement during the early stages of a storm. However, salt is not a silver bullet, and drivers may encounter icy spots on the roadway.

With freezing temperatures, roads that look wet may actually be icy. Motorists need to be extra cautious when approaching bridges and highway ramps where ice can form without warning.

Checking road conditions

Motorists can check conditions on 40,000 roadway miles, including color-coded winter conditions on 2,900 miles at the 511PA website. 511PA is free and available 24 hours a day. It provides traffic delay warnings, weather forecasts, traffic speed information and access to more than 1,000 traffic cameras. Users can also see plow truck statuses and travel alerts along a specific route using the “Check My Route” tool.

511PA is also available through a smartphone application for iPhone and Android devices; or by calling 5-1-1 or following regional Twitter alerts accessible on the 511PA website.

Winter weather advice

When winter weather occurs, drivers should be extra cautious around operating snow-removal equipment. When encountering a plow truck, drivers should:

  • Stay at least six car lengths behind an operating plow truck. Remember that the main plow is wider than the truck.
  • Be alert since plow trucks generally travel much more slowly than other traffic.
  • When a plow truck is traveling toward you, move as far away from the center of the road as is safely possible. Remember that snow can obscure the actual snow plow width.
  • Never try to pass or get between several trucks plowing side by side in a “plow train.” The weight of the snow thrown from the plow can quickly cause smaller vehicles to lose control, creating a hazard for nearby vehicles.
  • Never travel next to a plow truck since there are blind spots where the operator can’t see. Plow trucks can occasionally be moved sideways when hitting drifts or heavy snowpack.
  • Keep your lights on to help the operator better see your vehicle. Under Pennsylvania state law, vehicle lights must be on every time a vehicle’s wipers are on due to inclement weather.

There were 151 crashes resulting in three fatalities and 81 injuries on snowy, slushy or ice-covered roadways last winter. Aggressive driving behaviors such as speeding or making careless lane changes were factors.

The best way to stay safe is to simply avoid unnecessary travel.