HARRISBURG – With increased traffic expected for the upcoming Thanksgiving travel period, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) and Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) have outlined measures they will take and tools available to drivers to make holiday travel as safe and smooth as possible.
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 2014 and 2015 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 of roadways throughout Pennsylvania.
“I encourage all motorists to use 511PA, not only for their holiday travels, but also throughout the winter season,” PennDOT Secretary Leslie S. Richards said. “From traffic speeds and cameras to plow tracking, the site and mobile applications are great resources to help make travel decisions.”
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.
“We’re always looking for new ways to use our resources to improve our operations and the public’s mobility,” Richards said. “These efforts are more examples of how we’re striving to embody the governor’s Government That Works agenda every day.”
In the Harrisburg region, PennDOT’s State Farm Safety Patrol will have two additional tow trucks along the Capital Beltway and parts of Interstate 81. Staff also 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:
- 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 newly installed adaptive signal system to most effectively manage the rerouted traffic; and
- Partner with PSP on concentrated traffic enforcement near this area and to actively clear disabled vehicles from shoulders.
In the Philadelphia region, staff identified I-95 in Delaware County and I-76 (Schuylkill Expressway) as target areas and will:
- Have a PSP trooper stationed in the regional traffic management center from Thursday through Sunday for faster communications to field personnel for quick incident and shoulder clearance; and
- 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 staff to manage traffic at the off-exit intersection with Route 26;
- Use electronic message signs to reroute traffic to Exit 173 (Lamar) to use Route 64 to I-99 southbound if necessary;
- Partner with PSP on seat-belt and speed enforcement near the congested area; and
- Alert motorists of traffic conditions with highway advisory radio, electronic message signs and the 511PA service.
In the southwest region, construction-project lane restrictions will be removed and traffic enforcement will be increased on the I-70 corridor, along with the addition of electronic message signs to inform drivers of their travel speeds.
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 770 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 Web site.