Kathy Liebler
                        Director of Public Information

    C   O   M   M   I   S   S   I   O   N                N   E   W   S             R   E   L   E   A   S   E

           Contact: Kathy Liebler (717)939-9551 Ext. 2850                           March 14, 1997


        The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission announced it is taking its first major step toward the construction and implementation of a $5.3 million system-wide Traveler Information System. This is the initial phase of a system-wide initiative designed to give Turnpike motorists timely and accurate travel information.
        Construction will begin this week of a state-of-the-art Highway Advisory Radio (HAR) and Variable Message Sign (VMS) system in southeastern Pennsylvania to provide travelers with travel information and traffic conditions on the Turnpike and on connecting routes. The system, comprised of five HAR units and three VMS signs, is expected to be ready for use by the end of August and in time for the start of the $40 Million Schuylkill River Bridge widening and rehabilitation in the fall.
        Turnpike Executive Director John Durbin said, "This extensive traveler information system will alert motorists well in advance of changing traffic conditions both on and off the Turnpike. The system will also allows us to better manage the high volumes of traffic which exist in the Greater Philadelphia area. Our radio broadcasts and variable message signs will provide our travelers with timely, accurate pre-trip and enroute travel information allowing them to make informed decisions concerning travel time, routes to take and areas to avoid," he said.
        Durbin explained that the system will benefit Turnpike customers on a day to day basis, but will be even more crucial and necessary once the Schuylkill River Bridge Project is underway. This is the first phase of a comprehensive, integrated Turnpike information system to serve Turnpike travelers, he said, adding that the Commission has requested another $8 million in federal funding to further enhance the system.
        "Providing travelers in advance with information about highway and traffic conditions is an important and necessary component of our customer service program," he said. "We know that Turnpike motorists traveling both long and short distances, value and appreciate quick and accurate information about traffic and construction. We are responding to those needs."
        Turnpike Traffic Engineer Tim Scanlon said the Philadelphia area system, costing more than $1.5 million, will include the construction and installation of five HAR units at the following locations:

    * Downington Interchange, covering I-76 and PA 100.
    * Valley Forge Service Plaza, covering I-76, I-276 ,US 202, Valley Forge Interchange, the
       Schuylkill Expressway and US 422.
    * Mid County Interchange covering I 476, north and south of the Interchange and I-276,
       east and west of the Interchange.
    * Willow Grove Interchange Covering the I-276 and PA 611 and
    * Lansdale Interchange on the Northeastern Extension, covering I-476 and PA 63.

        Signing will be installed along those roadways to inform travelers of the radio system. The signs will be equipped with flashing lights which will be activated when an emergency message is being played on the HAR.
        Scanlon said the VMS units will be located eastbound in advance of the Valley Forge Interchange, westbound in advance of the Mid County Interchange and southbound on the Northeastern Extension between the Lansdale Interchange in advance of the junction. The signs, are approximately 30 by 10 feet in size with space for three lines of text with characters 18 inches high.
        According to Scanlon the Turnpike will provide timely and accurate travel information for the Turnpike and connecting roads, with the help of the Turnpike's safety patrols, maintenance staffs and emergency service contractors, the State Police, local police departments and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PENNDOT) and its travel information provider.
        In addition to the southeastern project, the Turnpike announced last October, it will target another $3 million in federal funding and $750,000 in toll revenue to install 10 HAR and three VMS units in several other locations across the 506 mile long highway. Specific plans have not been announced but Scanlon said the units would "very likely" be placed at interchanges connecting with major interstates.
        Scanlon explained that surveillance cameras will also be installed in the Philadelphia area to "allow us to monitor traffic flows and in cases of accidents to provide quicker and easier access for emergency vehicles and equipment."
        Commission officials said the Philadelphia area was its first priority for construction of a traveler information system, because of high traffic volumes in that area and the upcoming Schuylkill River Bridge construction project.


         P.O. Box 67676, Harrisburg, PA 17106-7676         Phone: (717) 939-9551         Fax: (717) 986-9649