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


Carl DeFebo 717-939-9551, extension 2934 cdefebo@paturnpike.com

December 19, 2000


Travelers urged to call 1-800-331-3414 for roadway and weather information.

HARRISBURG, Pa. — The Pennsylvania Turnpike reassured travelers that it is ready to confront wintry weather and handle the increased traffic volumes during the upcoming 2000 holiday period.

"Regardless of what weather lies ahead, the Pennsylvania Turnpike is well prepared to provide customers with the highest level of service and the safest possible roadway," said Executive Director John T. Durbin.

The Turnpike’s maintenance department is committed to providing a safe highway throughout the year. That commitment is backed up by a $6 million annual wintertime maintenance budget — about 15 percent of the total annual maintenance budget. When bad weather strikes, the maintenance department deploys an impressive army of resources, including:

  • a staff of 750 field personnel in 20 facilities throughout the system;
  • an arsenal of equipment including 225 plow-and-spreader dump trucks and 45 front-end loaders;
  • 125,000 tons (or 250 million pounds estimated annual usage) of salt, anti-skid material and calcium;
  • a longstanding bare-pavement plowing policy.

"Our objective is to achieve bare-pavement conditions as soon as possible after a snowstorm hits and to maintain these conditions during the life of the storm," said Maintenance Director Robert M. Wallett. "This demonstrates our commitment to provide the clearest possible surface, and it distinguishes us from other roads."

Officials expect more than 3 million vehicles will travel the Turnpike from Friday, Dec. 22 through Monday, Jan. 1. Throughout the holiday period, extra State Police and maintenance crews will patrol the Turnpike looking for speeders, aggressive motorists, drunk and drowsy drivers and disabled vehicles.

Capt. Richard A. Stein, Turnpike State Police commanding officer, urged motorists to wear seat belts and use child-safety restraints. "Seat-belt and child-restraint laws will be strictly enforced," he said. "We want everyone on the Turnpike to safely reach their destinations."

"Our appeal to motorists this holiday season is simple: Buckle up before your trip," said Durbin. "It’s much more than just a catchphrase that seat-belt usage saves lives: It’s a statistical fact."

"By wearing seat belts, you drastically reduce the danger of fatality," Risk Manager Dennis L. Genevie added. "Many people who were killed in car accidents would be with us today if they had simply buckled up."

Capt. Stein, pointing to the number of accidents caused by speeding vehicles, also cautioned motorists to obey posted speed limits on the Turnpike and all roadways, especially considering the increase in the number of cars and trucks on the road during the holiday.

To help avoid drowsy driving, motorists are encouraged to stop at any of the Turnpike’s 22 service plazas opened around the clock..

In addition, motorists are urged to give their vehicles a comprehensive safety check before embarking on their journeys. "Something as simple as a flat tire or cracked hose can cause unneeded delays and aggravation," Wallett said. "It’s always smart to make repairs beforehand and to pack emergency items like a blanket, flares, a flashlight and a shovel before entering the highway."

Should motorists require aid while traveling the Turnpike, yellow emergency call boxes are located at one-mile intervals to enable travelers to immediately alert dispatchers in Harrisburg. Cellular phone users can also dial *11 for emergency assistance.

To provide maximum use of the highway, there will be no scheduled maintenance or construction activity on the Turnpike beginning at 3 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 21 through 7 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 3. In addition, oversized and overweight vehicles (8½ feet wide, 85 feet long, 13½ feet high, or 100,000 pounds gross weight) will be banned on the Turnpike. The ban is effective Dec. 24 through Dec. 26 and from Dec. 31 through Jan 2.

Because inclement weather is always a possibility, Turnpike officials advise travelers to call the customer information line (1-800-331-3414) before departure.

The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission wishes everyone a safe and enjoyable holiday season.


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