HARRISBURG – The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) has outlined steps they are taking and highlighted tools available to drivers to make travel as safe and efficient as possible for the upcoming Thanksgiving travel period.
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 2017 and 2018 compared to traffic conditions during a typical, non-holiday week.
Users can choose their region and view an hour-by-hour, color-coded representation of traffic speeds to help them decide the best times to travel during the holiday.
“Our goal is to not just minimize congestion, but to also focus on safe travel by providing motorists with as much information as possible,” said PennDOT Secretary Leslie S. Richards.
“We encourage the public to use 511PA ahead of their trip to plan optimal drive times and to also slow down, buckle up, and to never drive distracted.
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.
In the Harrisburg region, PennDOT 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:
- On the Wednesday before and the Sunday after the holiday, proactively alert motorists on Interstate 81 and I-78 north and east of the I-81/I-78 interchange of potential or actual delays using travel-time messages on electronic message signs;
- Proactively alert motorists of potential or actual delays using travel-time messages on electronic message signs throughout the Harrisburg region;
- Use highway advisory radio messages and electronic message boards to encourage travelers to reroute onto U.S. 22 westbound, which typically has excess capacity;
- Partner with PSP on concentrated traffic enforcement near this area and to actively clear disabled vehicles from the roadway; and
- Increase the hours and extend the coverage area that PennDOT’s State Farm Safety Patrol will be on duty and patrolling this section of highway.
In the Philadelphia region, major traffic issues are mostly confined to Black Friday in and around the major shopping areas.
Staff identified I-95 in Delaware County, I-76 (Schuylkill Expressway), U.S. 1 near the Neshaminy Mall, and U.S. 202 and 422 near the King of Prussia Mall and the Philadelphia Premium Outlets as areas of increased congestion.
To attempt to ease this congestion, the department will use electronic message boards to provide travelers with travel times to major roadways of interest and provide alerts about regional events impacting traffic during the holiday.
In the central region, congestion was identified at the I-80 Exit 161 (Bellefonte) in Centre County on the Sunday after Thanksgiving. PennDOT will:
- On the Wednesday before the holiday, partner with PSP to monitor the I-80/I-99/Route 26 interchange in Centre County to manage traffic during peak congestion and on Sunday, Dec. 1, from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m., PennDOT staff will manage traffic at the interchange with a flagging operation during peak congestion;
- Proactively alert motorists of potential or actual delays using travel-time messages on electronic message signs;
- Activate electronic message signs to reroute I-80 westbound traffic to Exit 173 (Lamar), use Route 64 south and return to I-99 southbound if necessary; and
- Alert motorists of traffic conditions with highway advisory radio, electronic message signs and the 511PA service.
In the western region, traffic approaching the I-376 corridor east and west of the City of Pittsburgh on U.S. 19/Route 51, Route 28, U.S. 22, I-279, and I-79 will be alerted to I-376 conditions using electronic message boards.
Staff will also be monitoring major interstates such as I-70, I-79, I-80 and I-90; and will be advising motorists to use parallel alternate routes, such as U.S. 19, U.S. 40 and U.S. 20, in the event that a major incident occurs on any of the Interstate Highways.
- Messages regarding aggressive driving, impaired driving, and buckling up will be posted during the holiday;
- Travel time messages will be posted leading into areas of identified historic congestion; and
- Roadwork will be restricted on all interstates throughout the region.
To further increase traffic-data availability for traffic management staff, PennDOT partners with Waze, a real-time crowdsourced navigation app through which drivers share road conditions, to create a real-time dashboard through which staff can receive prioritized reports.
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 active construction projects at www.511PA.com before they travel.
Motorists can check 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 950 traffic cameras.
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 Web site.