In anticipation of frozen precipitation and potentially icy roadway conditions in many areas, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) is advising motorists to avoid all unnecessary travel during the upcoming storm. PennDOT plans to implement travel restrictions on trucks and other vehicles on certain roadways around the state, which will remain in place until conditions warrant their removal.
“Our team is ready and will work before and throughout the storm,” PennDOT Secretary Yassmin Gramian said. “Any icing presents a challenge because rain will wash away some material, and ice is less visible to motorists than snow.”
Effective 10:00 AM on Friday, January 1, vehicle restrictions will be implemented reflecting Level 3 of the commonwealth’s weather event vehicle restriction plan on the entire length of Interstate 99 in both directions.
Effective 12:00 PM on Friday, January 1, vehicle restrictions will be implemented reflecting Level 1 of the commonwealth’s weather event vehicle restriction plan on I-80 from I-79 to I-99.
Also at 12:00 PM on Friday, January 1, vehicle restrictions will be implemented reflecting Level 3 of the commonwealth’s weather event vehicle restriction plan on I-80 from I-99 to the New Jersey border.
Effective 2:00 PM on Friday, January 1, vehicle restrictions reflecting Level 4 of the commonwealth’s weather event vehicle restriction plan will be implemented on the following roadways:
- I-81 north of I-80 in both directions;
- The entire length of I-84 in both directions; and
- The entire length of I-380 in both directions.
On roadways with Level 1 restrictions in place (I-80 from I-79 to I-99), 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 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; and motorcycles.
On roadways with Level 3 restrictions in place (I-99, I-80 from I-99 to the New Jersey border), 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.
On roadways with Level 4 restrictions in place (I-81, 84 and 380 north of I-80), no commercial vehicles are permitted. 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.
Speed limits will be restricted to 45 mph on these roadways for all vehicles while restrictions are in place, and commercial vehicles not affected by the restrictions must move to the right lane. Additional speed restrictions on other interstates could be added depending on changing conditions.
Restrictions will be communicated via variable message boards, the 511PA traveler information website at www.511PA.com and smartphone apps. Motorists can also sign up for alerts on www.511PA.com by clicking on “Personal Alerts” in the left-hand menu.
Icy conditions are expected across the state, and PennDOT urges motorists to avoid travel if possible. But 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, and extra caution is needed when approaching bridges and highway ramps where ice can form without warning.
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 accessible on the 511PA website.
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.
If motorists encounter snow or ice-covered roads, they should slow down, increase their following distance and avoid distractions. Last winter in Pennsylvania, preliminary data shows that there were 151 crashes resulting in three fatalities and 81 injuries on snowy, slushy or ice-covered roadways where aggressive driving behaviors such as speeding or making careless lane changes were factors.
For more information on safe winter travel, an emergency kit checklist and information on PennDOT’s winter operations including a video, visit www.PennDOT.gov/winter. Additional winter driving and other highway safety information is available at www.PennDOT.gov/safety.