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: Christina M. Hampton  (610) 279-1645                        November 24, 1997


Travelers safety the Number One Priority


PHILADELPHIA, PA - - The Pennsylvania Turnpike is ready for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, the most heavily-traveled weekend of the year. According to an American Automobile Association survey, Americans are expected to travel in record numbers this Thanksgiving, as 31.8 million travelers plan their holiday getaways.

Last year, over 1.7 million vehicles traveled the Turnpike during the four-day weekend. This year weather permitting, officials anticipate 1.8 million motorists (a 3% increase over 1996) will travel the Turnpike over the official Thanksgiving holiday beginning at 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday, November 26 and ending midnight Sunday, November 30.

Turnpike construction and maintenance activities have been scheduled to provide maximum use of the road during the Thanksgiving holiday period. Four lanes of traffic will be maintained on the entire 506-mile highway.

Oversized and overweight vehicles will be banned on the Turnpike from sundown Tuesday, November 25 to sunrise Monday, December 1. The restriction applies to all vehicles exceeding any of the following dimensions or weight; 8 1/2 feet wide, 85 feet long, 13 1/2 feet high, and 100,000 pounds gross weight.

For motorists in the Philadelphia area, three 10'9" high by 30'9" wide stationary Variable Message signs, the first component of the Turnpike's new Advanced Traveler Information System (ATIS) will be used to alert travelers about adverse weather conditions and heavy traffic. The signs are located eastbound approximately 2 miles west of the Valley Forge Interchange (exit 24), westbound about 1 1/2 miles from the Fort Washington Interchange (exit 26) and southbound at milepost A-3.6 on the Northeast Extension prior to the junction with the mainline Turnpike.

Turnpike Executive Director John T. Durbin said, "These signs are only the start of a comprehensive system that will allow us to offer our customers real time traffic information while they are traveling on our roadway." The new variable message signs will only be activated when there is important information to be communicated to travelers.

Should the holiday forecast include snow, sleet, or freezing rain the Turnpike is well-armed for winter weather with over 45,000 tons of rock salt, 67,000 tons of anti-skid material, 83,000 gallons of liquid calcium, 225 dump-trucks equipped with spreaders and snowplows, 45 front end loaders, five roadway graders, four heavy-duty snowblowers, and 775 Turnpike maintenance workers on call 24-hours-a-day ready to leave at a moments notice to clear the highway, keeping it open and safe for travelers.

"No matter what the weather brings," Durbin said, we're prepared to provide our customers with the highest level of service and the safest roadway possible during snow and ice storms. Our Thanksgiving wish is that all who travel our highway arrive at their destinations safe and sound."

Snow has already fallen in some areas of the state. It's a good idea to call the Turnpike's toll free weather line 1-(800)-331-3414 for Turnpike roadway and weather conditions before departing for your destination.

Turnpike safety officials recommend drivers be sensible about holiday travel and plan ahead. They advise travelers get a good night's sleep, allow themselves extra time to reach their destinations, have their vehicles winterized, require all passengers buckle-up, and insure that all infants and toddlers under the age of four are properly secured in an approved child safety seat. Studies show that motorists who allow themselves extra time traveling experience less stress.

They suggest motorists have their cars serviced and equipped with all weather tires, and carry a Winter Package containing a scraper, snow removal brush, flashlight, batteries, and a blanket in the trunk of their car.

Turnpike maintenance crews and safety patrols and the Pennsylvania State Police will be increasing their forces throughout the holiday period to assist stranded motorists and offer assistance.

State Police Troop T Commanding Officer Captain Richard A. Stein said, "We are urging motorists to buckle-up, obey the speed limit, remain alert, drive cautiously, and be courteous to other drivers." In addition to patrolling for speeders, troopers will be looking for drivers who appear to be sleepy or intoxicated.

The Turnpike's 22 service plazas will be open 24-hours to provide relief for weary motorists in need of restrooms, gas, and food. As in past years, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) are using the Thanksgiving holiday to kick off their annual campaign, "Tie One On For Safety." Red ribbons will be available to customers at all Turnpike Service Plazas to create more public awareness about the deadly consequences of drunk driving during the holiday season. Motorists are encouraged to tie the red ribbon to a visible place on their vehicle symbolizing their pledge to drive safe and sober during the holiday season and to remind other motorists to do the same.

Bright yellow emergency call boxes which are located every mile both east and westbound along the Turnpike should be used by motorists who experience breakdowns, accidents or other incidents. Help can also be called by dialing star one-one (*11) on a cellular phone or utilizing the toll-free emergency number posted on all pay phones at Turnpike Service Plazas.

The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission extends wishes for a safe and happy holiday season to all travelers.
















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