HARRISBURG, Pa. — Ahead of icy and snowy conditions, cold temperatures and high winds across most of the state this weekend, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) and Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission (PTC) are advising motorists to avoid unnecessary travel during the storm.
Additionally, the agencies will implement various speed and vehicle restrictions throughout the storm.
Because this storm will begin as sleet and freezing rain overnight Wednesday into Thursday, PennDOT and PTC crews are actively pre-treating roadways where necessary ahead of the storm 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, and extra caution is needed when approaching bridges and highway ramps where ice can form without warning.
Restrictions will be communicated via variable message boards, the 511PA traveler information website and smartphone apps. Motorists can also sign up for personalized alerts on the website.
The following vehicle restrictions will go into place at 1 a.m. on Thursday, Dec. 15, in accordance with the commonwealth’s weather event vehicle restriction plan:
- Tier 1:
- I-79 from PA Turnpike (I-76) to I-80.
- I-80 from I-79 to Exit 173 (Lamar).
- I-70 from Maryland to PA Turnpike (I-76) in Fulton County.
- Tier 2:
- I-70 from I-79 to I-76.
- Tier 3:
- PA Turnpike (I-76) from the New Stanton to Breezewood exits.
- I-99, entire length.
The following vehicle restrictions will go into place at 6:00 AM on Thursday, Dec. 15, in accordance with the commonwealth’s weather event vehicle restriction plan:
- Tier 1:
- I-81 from the Maryland border to I-80.
- I-83, entire length.
- I-283, entire length.
The following vehicle restrictions will go into place at 12:00 noon on Thursday, Dec. 15, in accordance with the commonwealth’s weather event vehicle restriction plan:
- Tier 1:
- I-81 from I-380 to the New York border.
- I-84, entire length.
- I-380, entire length.
- I-476 (PA Turnpike Northeast Extension) from I-78 to I-81 Clarks Summit Exit 56-131.
Under Tier 1 restrictions, the following vehicles are not permitted on affected roadways:
- Tractors without trailers.
- Tractors towing unloaded or lightly loaded enclosed trailers, open trailers or tank trailers.
- Tractors towing unloaded or lightly loaded tandem trailers.
- Enclosed unloaded or lightly loaded cargo delivery trucks/box 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.
On roadways with Tier 2 restrictions in place, tractors towing loaded tandem trailers are not permitted unless there are chains or another approved Alternate Traction Device on board. Additionally, all school buses, commercial buses, motor coaches, motorcycles, RVs/motorhomes and passenger vehicles (cars, SUVs, pickup trucks, etc.) towing trailers are not permitted on affected roadways while restrictions are in place.
On roadways with Tier 3 restrictions in place, no commercial vehicles are permitted EXCEPT loaded single trailers with chains or approved Alternate Traction Devices. Additionally, all school buses, commercial buses, motor coaches, motorcycles, RVs/motorhomes and passenger vehicles (cars, SUVs, pickup trucks, etc.) towing trailers are not permitted on affected roadways while restrictions are in place.
PennDOT urges motorists to avoid travel if possible. If travel is necessary, use caution, reduce speeds and be aware of changing weather conditions.
To help make decisions regarding winter travel, motorists are encouraged to “Know Before You Go” by checking conditions on more than 40,000 roadway miles, including color-coded winter conditions on 2,900 miles, by visiting www.511PA.com. 511PA, which is free and available 24 hours a day, 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, by calling 5-1-1, or by following regional Twitter alerts.
Drivers should prepare or restock their emergency kits with items such as non-perishable food, water, first-aid supplies, warm clothes, a blanket, cell phone charger and a small snow shovel. Motorists should tailor their kits to any specific needs that they or their families have such as baby supplies, extra medication and pet supplies.
When winter weather occurs, drivers should 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 and 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, and remember that snow can obscure the actual snowplow 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, and they can occasionally be moved sideways when hitting drifts or heavy snowpack.
- Keep your lights on to help the operator better see your vehicle. Also remember that under Pennsylvania state law, vehicle lights must be on every time a vehicle’s wipers are on due to inclement weather.
Last winter in Pennsylvania, preliminary statewide data shows that there were 266 crashes resulting in two fatalities and 116 injuries on snowy, slushy or ice-covered roadways where aggressive-driving behaviors such as speeding or making careless lane changes were factors.
Motorists are reminded the law requires drivers to remove accumulated ice or snow from their vehicle, including the hood, trunk, and roof within 24 hours after the storm has ended. This applies to all vehicles, including commercial vehicles. Drivers in violation of the law are subject to a fine of $50. Additionally, motorists can be cited up to $1,500 if snow or ice is dislodged and strikes another vehicle or pedestrian causing death or serious injury.
For more information on safe winter travel, an emergency kit checklist and information on PennDOT’s winter operations including a video, visit www.PennDOT.pa.gov/winter. Additional winter driving and other highway safety information is available at www.PennDOT.pa.gov/safety.
The Trucker News Staff produces engaging content for not only TheTrucker.com, but also The Trucker Newspaper, which has been serving the trucking industry for more than 30 years. With a focus on drivers, the Trucker News Staff aims to provide relevant, objective content pertaining to the trucking segment of the transportation industry. The Trucker News Staff is based in Little Rock, Arkansas.