With the winter season approaching, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) Secretary Leslie S. Richards today outlined the agency’s plans for winter services and highlighted tools the public can use through the winter and how they can prepare for the coming season.
“Our number-one priority is safety, and that guides our winter preparations and operations,” Richards said. “We are ready for the season ahead and want the public to prepare and be aware of the tools available to them.”
To help the public prepare for the season and share information about winter services, resources are available 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.
The public can also access travel information on nearly 40,000 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 more than 2,200 department-owned and rented plow trucks to send a cellular signal showing where a truck is located.
The 40,000 miles for which PennDOT is responsible translates into 96,000 snow-lane miles — enough miles to circle the globe nearly four times. A snow-lane is calculated as the miles of road multiplied by the number of lanes, which means a one-mile section of four-lane roadway would equal four snow-lane miles.
The department maintains roughly the same number of miles maintained by the state in New York, New Jersey and all the New England states combined.
With $228 million budgeted for this winter’s statewide operations, PennDOT deploys about 4,500 on-the-road workers, has more than 620,000 tons of salt on hand across the state and will take salt deliveries throughout the winter.
PennDOT is actively seeking more than 500 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 other types of non-operator, winter positions such as diesel and construction equipment mechanics, welders, clerks and more.
“Winter maintenance is a critical and difficult task, and motorists are partners in making this season a safe one,” Richards said. “Drivers should always think safety first and be sure that they are giving plenty of room to our operators and other motorists.”
When winter weather hits, PennDOT’s primary focus is on interstates and expressways, and equipment may be redirected to those routes during significant winter events. The more traffic a roadway has, the more attention it will receive from plows, so motorists may find deeper accumulations on less-traveled routes and should adjust their driving for those 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 one fatality and 221 injuries on snowy, slushy or ice-covered roadways where aggressive-driving behaviors such as speeding or making careless lane changes were factors.
In addition to planning for winter travel conditions, motorists should prepare their vehicles for the season. Tires should be checked often for the correct level of air pressure and adequate tire-tread depth to perform on ice and snow. A quick way to check tread depth is to insert a penny in the tread groove with Lincoln’s head upside down. If you can see the entire head, the tires are worn and traction will suffer. If you live in an area prone to heavy snow, drivers may want to consider using dedicated snow tires or carrying a set of tire chains. At a minimum, all-season tires should be rated for use in mud and snow.
Once vehicles are travel-ready, drivers should be prepared for winter or vehicle emergencies especially if long-distance travel is planned. PennDOT urges motorists to carry an emergency kit. An emergency kit should include items such as non-perishable food, water, first-aid supplies, warm clothes, a blanket, cell phone charger and a small snow shovel. However, motorists should tailor their kits to any specific needs that they or their families may have. Consider adding such items as baby supplies, extra medication, pet supplies, or even children’s games.
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 860 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 website.
For more PennDOT information, visit www.penndot.gov.