With the arrival of the winter season, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) is urging motorists in the Philadelphia region to be prepared for driving in inclement winter weather as crews work to keep state highways passable.
“State crews and equipment are ready to serve our citizens by treating and plowing highways to keep them passable during times of snow and mixed precipitation,” said PennDOT District Executive Kenneth M. McClain. “The past two winter seasons were relentless for the number of winter storms that struck the Philadelphia region, and we’re fully prepared for another demanding winter season.”
This winter, PennDOT can call on more than 440 snow plow trucks to service 8,121 snow lane miles of state highway in the five-county Philadelphia region depending on the intensity of the storm. This fleet is comprised of 182 state and 265 private contractor trucks. Locally, PennDOT starts the winter season with 120,000 tons of salt stockpiled at 35 locations.
Assisting PennDOT this winter in the Philadelphia region will be 95 municipalities that entered into winter maintenance agreements to salt and plow specified state roads in each municipality. Municipal crews will cover 2,985 snow lane miles of state highway.
A snow-lane is the distance of a road multiplied by the number of travel lanes.
PennDOT’s 182 snow plow trucks in the region are equipped with computerized salt spreaders that allow the operators to regulate the amount of salt to be distributed onto the pavement regardless of the speed of the truck.
In addition, 44 PennDOT trucks and 161 contractor trucks in the region this winter will be equipped with the new Automated Vehicle Location (AVL) system to improve location and operations information through a pilot program. The use of this technology will improve the department’s real-time information on vehicle movement on interstates and other expressways, plow-route coverage, and monitor materials usage. The AVL system is part of Governor Wolf’s GO-TIME initiative that leverages inter-agency coordination and collaboration to maximize efficient, modernize state government operations, and provide the highest quality services.
PennDOT will make the AVL system’s real-time location data available to the public this winter through its traveler information website, www.511PA.com.
To further assist operations, 20 PennDOT trucks will use a wing plow (a plow attached to the side of the truck) to increase total plowing width to about 18 feet. When deployed, a wing-plow truck can move up to 50 percent more snow off the highway. Two trucks will be equipped with double wing plows that cover 24 feet of roadway.
McClain said motorists should stay at least six car lengths behind snow plow trucks when they are operating and they should never try to pass a plow truck.
“Safety is of paramount importance and our snow plow operators have a tremendous amount of responsibility during a winter storm,” McClain said. “They must plow snow, monitor the computer that controls the amount of salt being dispensed, and maintain a close eye on traffic and possible roadside obstacles. We urge motorists to provide extra space so snow plow operators can perform their jobs effectively and safely.”
Last winter, PennDOT spread 169,040 tons of salt in the five-county Philadelphia region during 26 winter-weather events.
In the Philadelphia region, PennDOT has used more than 100,000 tons of salt seven times in the last 33 winters, including four of the last six. A record amount of 172,848 tons was spread in winter 2013-14.
PennDOT will use 25 state trucks to spray salt brine on heavily traveled state highways in the region prior to the arrival of a winter storm to keep snow from bonding to dry concrete or asphalt pavements during the early stages of a storm. This fleet includes an 8,000-gallon tanker truck that sprays Interstate 76, Interstate 476 and U.S. 422 in Montgomery County.
PennDOT will start the winter season with approximately 160,000 gallons of salt brine on hand in the Philadelphia region. Last winter, PennDOT sprayed 448,914 gallons of brine on regional state highways.
If motorists encounter snow or ice-covered roads, they should slow down, increase their following distance and avoid distractions. Last winter in Pennsylvania, there were 552 crashes resulting in four fatalities and 279 injuries on snowy, slushy or ice-covered roadways where aggressive-driving behaviors such as speeding or making careless lane changes were factors in the crash.
When traveling during the winter, motorists should carry an emergency kit including 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.