REGIONAL (WTAJ) – Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) Acting Executive Deputy Secretary Melissa Batula, Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) Director Randy Padfield, and Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission (PTC) COO Craig Shuey held a media briefing Monday to outline the commonwealth’s plans for services in the coming winter season and discuss how the public can successfully prepare.
It’s a race against time across the state, hundreds of workers are needed to help make our roads safe this winter. PennDOT made its priorities clear during the press conference Monday.
“Our number-one priority is safety, and that guides our winter preparations and operations,” Batula said. “We are ready for the season ahead and motorists are our partners in making this season a safe one.”
Batula said it’s been a struggle to hire, especially the past two years, as competition with the private sector becomes more difficult.
Job fairs have been held to try to fill these jobs. The next one in Blair County is Saturday, October 23 at the jaffa shrine in Altoona
The public can access travel information on nearly 40,000 state-maintained roadway miles year-round at www.511PA.com, and during the winter they can find plow-truck locations and details of when state-maintained roadways were last plowed. The information is made possible by PennDOT’s Automated Vehicle Location (AVL) technology, which uses units in each of the over 2,500 department-owned and rented plow trucks to send a cellular signal showing where a truck is located.
To help the public prepare for the season and share information about winter services, PennDOT offers operational information and traveler resources at www.penndot.gov/winter. The site also has a complete winter guide with detailed information about winter services in each of PennDOT’s 11 engineering districts.
Each year, the PTC readies itself to confront the winter elements by properly preparing its entire fleet of trucks, plows, and salt spreaders and training more than 400 licensed equipment operators so they are ready to activate 24/7 staffing this fall. Turnpike traffic and weather operations are also at the ready. The team’s focus is to fully understand the conditions on the roadway and to keep the Turnpike system as free of snow and ice as possible. Motorists should take the time now to assure their vehicles are ready for winter and to know their own winter driving skills.
“Our professional crews have worked hard to prepare for the upcoming winter season, and they are ready,” Shuey said. “Winter storms are a fact of life in our region, so drivers should take the time now to inspect the condition of their own vehicles and be sure that wipers and tires will perform well. Also, now is the time to download the 511PA app to access traffic delay warnings, weather forecasts, traffic speed information for all of Pennsylvania’s major roadways. You can be ready for what’s up ahead with the swipe of a screen.”
With $197.7 million budgeted for this winter’s statewide operations, PennDOT deploys about 4,700 on-the-road workers, has more than 560,000 tons of salt on hand across the state, and will take salt deliveries throughout the winter.
Just in our area, it’ll take dozens of people to spread it, PennDOT says the positions are open all across the board. In the north-central regions District 2 areas, PennDOT officials are looking for multiple positions across their nine-county area of over 3,700 miles, including about 10 drivers in Clearfield county, and six in Centre. And District 9, which covers Blair Bedford and Cambria Counties is hiring for more than 50 positions for the winter season, including drivers, mechanics, and dispatchers.
“Crucial areas for this year are Centre and Clearfield counties. They are of course our interstate counties and we really need to make sure that our interstates are the ones that are a priority,” said Lisa Ludwig, a representative from PennDOT District 2. “If we don’t get certain positions open then we need to make priorities with our routes.”
“We’re always concerned about getting drivers. If not for our ability to meet the demands of the system, but also concerned with our employees and being able to get them adequate downtime,”
PennDOT is actively seeking more than 600 temporary equipment operators statewide for the winter season to supplement the department’s full-time staff. Details on minimum requirements, such as possession of a CDL, as well as application information, are available at www.employment.pa.gov. Through the same website, job seekers can apply for over 100 other non-operator winter positions such as diesel and construction equipment mechanics, welders, clerks, and more.
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 301 crashes resulting in four fatalities and 143 injuries on snowy, slushy, or ice-covered roadways where aggressive-driving behaviors such as speeding or making careless lane changes were factors.
Motorists should prepare for potential bad weather by ensuring they have supplies in their cars before heading out: food, water, blankets, extra gloves and hats, cell phone charger, hand or foot warmers, windshield brush and scraper, and any specialized items like medications or baby and pet supplies.
“If you must travel during times of inclement winter weather your planning should include knowing how you’ll get weather and travel alerts along your entire travel route,” Padfield said. “Make sure others know your estimated travel time, and have basic emergency supplies in your car, including any specialized items needed for young children or pets.”
For more information on PennDOT’s winter preparations and additional winter-driving resources for motorists, you can visit the department’s winter website.
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