HARRISBURG — The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) and Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) today outlined steps they are taking and highlighted tools available to drivers to make travel as safe and efficient as possible for the upcoming Thanksgiving travel period.
Thanksgiving travelers are encouraged to visit the “Historic Holiday Traffic” page at www.511PA.com which allows users to see how traffic speeds on the Wednesday before and Sunday after Thanksgiving in 2015 and 2016 compare to traffic conditions during a typical, non-holiday week.
Users can choose their region and view an hour-by-hour, color-coded visual of traffic speeds to help them decide the best times to travel during the holiday. 511PA also offers real-time, traffic speed information for roughly 2,900 highway miles throughout PA.
“We continue to look for ways to put our tools to use for the public, and to take action where we can,” PennDOT Secretary Leslie S. Richards said. “I encourage the public to check 511PA before any trip to help with their travel planning, especially during the holiday season.”
PennDOT traffic management staff have analyzed this holiday data and identified locations and timeframes where congestion typically increases dramatically during the holiday and will take steps to try to alleviate congestion and improve safety.
The department will also partner with police for increased, strategic enforcement of speed and impaired driving laws.
Travel data was also shared with the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency for distribution to 9-1-1 centers so staff are aware of and can plan for peak travel times, when call volume could increase.
In the Harrisburg region, PennDOT identified consistent, increased congestion on the Sunday after the holiday near I-81 southbound at the I-78 split in Lebanon County. To attempt to ease this congestion, the department will:
· Have a PSP trooper stationed in the regional traffic management center on Sunday, November 26, for faster communications to field personnel for quick incident and shoulder clearance;
· Use highway advisory radio messages and electronic message boards to encourage travelers to reroute onto U.S. 22 westbound, which typically has excess capacity;
· Use a traffic signals expert in its regional traffic management center to manage U.S. 22’s adaptive signal system to most effectively manage the rerouted traffic;
· Partner with PSP on concentrated traffic enforcement near this area and to actively clear disabled vehicles from the roadway; and
· Increase the hours that PennDOT’s State Farm Safety Patrol will be on duty and patrolling this section of highway.
In the Philadelphia region, staff identified I-95 in Delaware County, I-76 (Schuylkill Expressway), and U.S. 202 and 422 near the King of Prussia Mall and the Philadelphia Premium Outlets as target areas. To assist with quick incident and shoulder clearance, the department will increase the hours that PennDOT’s State Farm Safety Patrol will be on duty.
In the central region, congestion was identified at the I-80 Exit 161 (Bellefonte) in Centre County on the Sunday after Thanksgiving. PennDOT will:
· Station maintenance staff within the I-80/I-99/Route 26 interchange in Centre County to manage traffic with a flagging operation during peak congestion;
· Proactively alert motorists of potential or actual delays using travel-time messages on electronic message signs;
· Activate electronic message signs to reroute I-80 westbound traffic to Exit 173 (Lamar), use Route 64 south and return to I-99 southbound if necessary; and
· Alert motorists of traffic conditions with highway advisory radio, electronic message signs and the 511PA service.
In the southwest region, traffic approaching the I-376 corridor east and west of the City of Pittsburgh on U.S. 19/Route 51, Route 28, U.S. 22, I-279, and I-79 will be alerted to I-376 conditions using electronic message boards. In addition:
· PSP will have an increased presence near the corridor to assist with quick incident and shoulder clearance;
·To facilitate anticipated traffic with the holiday and a Pittsburgh College football game on Friday, existing PennDOT State Farm Safety Patrols will be supplemented by PennDOT tunnel maintenance staff on 16 miles of I-376; and
· PennDOT tunnel maintenance staff will patrol 16 miles of I-376 on Saturday.
To further increase traffic-data availability for traffic management staff, PennDOT has created a portal through which staff can receive prioritized reports from Waze, a real-time crowdsourced navigation app through which drivers share road conditions. As a member of the Waze Connected Citizens Program, the department can receive incident or roadway concern alerts faster and respond more quickly if necessary.
PennDOT will also remove lane restrictions and suspend construction projects wherever possible through the holiday period. Motorists can see remaining construction projects at www.511PA.com before they travel.
The public can use 511PA to check conditions on nearly 40,000 roadway miles in Pennsylvania. The service is free and available 24 hours a day, and provides traffic delay warnings, weather forecasts, traffic speed information and access to more than 850 traffic cameras. 511PA is also available through a smartphone application for iPhone and Android devices. Information can also be accessed by calling 5-1-1 or by following regional Twitter alerts accessible on the 511PA website.