Winter Storm Forces PennDOT to Reduce Speed Limit on I-80, Commercial Ban Remains in Effect

| January 19, 2019

CLARION COUNTY, Pa. (EYT) – Due to the severity of the winter storm, PennDOT is temporarily reducing the speed limit on interstates in the region.

PennDOT is urging motorists to avoid unnecessary travel but those who must head out will see speeds reduced to 45 mph on Interstate 80 from the Ohio/Pennsylvania border to Exit 161 – Bellefonte.

Additional speed reductions are in place on interstates throughout the state. A ban on commercial vehicle travel on the interstates remains in place.

Although PennDOT crews have been treating roadways, the department’s primary goal is to keep roads passable, not completely free of ice and snow. PennDOT will continue to treat roadways throughout the storm until precipitation stops and roads are clear.

Commercial Vehicle Ban in Effect on Most Interstates, Lifting on Some Roadways at 2:30 p.m.

Following Governor Tom Wolf’s emergency declaration yesterday and plans announced in anticipation of a statewide storm featuring varying degrees of heavy snow, high winds, sleet and freezing rain, a commercial vehicle ban is now in effect through noon Sunday on most interstates and most of the Turnpike.

The commercial ban went into effect at noon and includes all commercial traffic, including buses, though tow truck operators may perform their operations for motorists. Due to a reduction in anticipated storm severity in the southeast and south-central regions, the ban is in effect on all interstates except Interstate 95, I-676, I-476, I-76, and I-276 in southeastern Pennsylvania. The ban is also in effect on the U.S. 22 expressway in the Lehigh Valley and the Pennsylvania Route 33 expressway in Northampton and Monroe counties. See a map of restricted roadways applicable until 2:30 p.m.

At 2:30 p.m., the ban will be lifted from I-83, I-81 south of I-83, I-283, I-176, and the Turnpike from the New Jersey state line to the Carlisle exit. The ban on I-180 will not lift at 2:30 p.m. as previously announced.

A 45-mph speed restriction is in place on I-80 from the Ohio State line to I-99, as well as I-376 in Mercer and Lawrence counties. Additional speed restrictions on interstates and expressways may be implemented as the storm progresses.

“We are monitoring the situation and forecast closely and are balancing safety and operations with the impact to travel across the state,” PennDOT Secretary Leslie S. Richards said. “We will make decisions throughout the storm with safety as our top priority, but we will also adjust plans if conditions allow.”

The Pennsylvania Department Transportation (PennDOT), the Pennsylvania Turnpike, the Pennsylvanian Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) and the Pennsylvania State Police are in continued collaboration at the Commonwealth Response Coordination Center and with teams across the state.

Anticipating the storm’s severity, Amtrak has cancelled the cross-state Pennsylvanian passenger train for Sunday and has cancelled six trains Sunday on the Keystone Line between Philadelphia and Harrisburg.

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 860 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.

A vehicle emergency kit should be prepared or restocked containing 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.

PEMA works with county emergency management personnel to monitor unmet local needs during inclement weather affecting travel, utilities, and shelter. You are encouraged to monitor state agency social media accounts for the most up-to-date information on any emergency or weather-related situation affecting the state, in addition to any social media accounts for your local emergency management office.

Motorists should be aware that all vehicles should be fully clear of ice and snow before winter travel. If snow or ice is dislodged or falls from a moving vehicle and strikes another vehicle or pedestrian causing death or serious bodily injury, the operator of that vehicle could receive a $200 to $1,000 fine.

When winter weather occurs, PennDOT urges drivers to be extra cautious around operating snow-removal equipment. When encountering a plow truck, drivers should:

• Stay at least six car lengths behind an operating plow truck and remember that the main plow is wider than the truck.
• Be alert since plow trucks generally travel much more slowly than other traffic.
• When a plow truck is traveling toward you, move as far away from the center of the road as is safely possible, and remember that snow can obscure the actual snow plow width.
• Never try to pass or get between several trucks plowing side by side in a “plow train.” The weight of the snow thrown from the plow can quickly cause smaller vehicles to lose control, creating a hazard for nearby vehicles.
• Never travel next to a plow truck since there are blind spots where the operator can’t see, and they can occasionally be moved sideways when hitting drifts or heavy snowpack.
• Keep your lights on to help the operator better see your vehicle. Also remember that under Pennsylvania state law, vehicle lights must be on every time a vehicle’s wipers are on due to inclement weather.

In addition to driving safely around plows, motorists are urged to drive according to conditions. 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 440 crashes resulting in 221 injuries on snowy, slushy or ice-covered roadways where aggressive-driving behaviors such as speeding or making careless lane changes were factors.

For more winter driving tips and information on how PennDOT treats winter storms, visit www.PennDOT.gov/winter.


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