PennDOT’s Regional Traffic Management Center Prepares for Winter Travel
CLEARFIELD COUNTY, Pa. (WTAJ) – Winter conditions cause hundreds of accidents on Pennsylvania roads each year. In Clearfield, the Central Regional Transportation Management Center (RTMC) is responsible for 26 counties.
On Monday, Nov. 21, officials from four Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) districts hosted a combined event to discuss winter preparations and how the Central Regional Transportation Management Center (RTMC) helps with awareness of the situation for the traveling public.
“We use the District 2 Regional Traffic Management Center for public and situational awareness, the Regional Traffic Management Center uses message boards to impact and inform the public,” said Ken Bair, Director district maintenance assistant 3.
RTMC services include 24/7 monitoring and display of road and bridge restrictions/closures, traffic and weather incident management, and intelligent transportation system monitoring , which includes traffic cameras, message boards and road radio.
“The traffic management center is kind of the nerve center of PennDOT operations,” said traffic management center operations supervisor Don Maicki. “When it gets hectic like that, everyone gathers here and everyone from management, operations, everything comes together here and we sort of deal with whatever issues arise at that time.”
As part of a signage pilot project, the department deployed variable speed limit or VSL signs at 63 locations.
They are located at the following locations:
- 21 locations along I-80 in Clearfield (Mile Mark (MM) 100-133) and Clinton (MM 182-193) counties;
- Six locations on I-80 in Clarion and Jefferson counties near Emlenton Bridge (MM 42-45), North Fork Bridge (MM 78-81), and Kyle Lake Bridge (MM 92-95); and
- 36 locations along I-81 from I-78 to I-80 in Lebanon (five locations), Lucerne (seven locations), and Schuylkill (24 locations) counties.
When visibility or road conditions call for lower speeds, VSLs help reduce speed limits quickly, clearly displaying the lower speed limit for motorists. When speed limits are reduced, a yellow light at the top and bottom of the VSL will flash to ensure motorists are aware of the change.
“We sort of make a decision based on the criteria that are met whether the speeds should be lowered or not,” Maicki said.
With more than $212 million budgeted for statewide operations this winter, PennDOT is deploying approximately 4,700 workers on the road, has more than 636,000 tons of salt across the state, and will make deliveries of salt throughout the winter.
The most important thing PennDOT employees say is slow down.
“If in the winter motorists change their daily routine and leave 15 minutes earlier than normal, they can travel at speeds appropriate for winter conditions,” said Jason Powell, District 2 Maintenance Operations Manager.
If motorists encounter snowy or icy roads, they should slow down, increase their following distance and avoid distractions. Last winter in Pennsylvania, preliminary statewide data shows there were 266 crashes resulting in two fatalities and 116 injuries on snowy, slushy or icy roads where aggressive driving behaviors such as speed or reckless lane changes were factors.
Motorists should be prepared for possible winter conditions by ensuring they have supplies in their vehicle before setting off: food, water, blankets, extra gloves and hats, cell phone charger, hand or foot warmers, brush and windshield scraper, and any specialized items such as medications. or baby and pet supplies.
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Motorists can check conditions for more than 40,000 miles of road, including color-coded winter conditions for 2,900 miles, by visiting 511PA.com. The 511PA, which is free and available 24 hours a day, provides traffic delay warnings, weather forecasts, traffic speed information and access to over 1,000 traffic cameras.
511PA is also available through a free smartphone app for iPhone and Android devices, by calling 5-1-1 or following regional Twitter alerts.