Pennsylvania launches new online tool as part of winter travel preparations

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With the winter season approaching, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf and Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) secretary Leslie S Richards have launched a new online tool that is now available to inform the public of the agency’s snow clearing operations.

New for this winter, the public can view a color-coded map of when each of the nearly 40,000 miles of state-maintained roadway was last plowed by visiting the 511PA website plow trucks section.

The information is the latest enhancement 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 real-time truck locations. The AVL program, started in 2014, is part of Governor Tom Wolf’s Go-Time initiative that makes use of inter-agency coordination and collaboration to maximize efficiency, modernize state government operations, and provide the highest quality services.

In addition to viewing plow location information, motorists can use the website to check conditions on more than 40,000 roadway miles (63,400km), which translates into 96,000 snow-lane miles (155,000km), including color-coded winter conditions on 2,900 miles (4,700km). The 511PA site, which is free and available 24 hours a day, and is also available through a smartphone application for Apple and Android devices, provides traffic delay warnings, weather forecasts, traffic speed information and access to more than 850 traffic cameras statewide.

With US$220m budgeted for this winter’s statewide operations, PennDOT deploys about 4,800 on-the-road workers, has more than 652,000 tons of salt on hand across the state, and will take salt deliveries throughout the winter. Richards noted that PennDOT is actively seeking approximately 480 temporary equipment operators statewide for the winter season to supplement the department’s full-time staff.

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. The agency is advising that motorists should adjust their driving for poor conditions, as preliminary data for last winter shows that there were 252 crashes resulting in 129 injuries on snowy, slushy or ice-covered roadways where aggressive-driving behaviors, such as speeding or making careless lane changes, were factors.

“Public safety is our principal mission, which drives our team’s preparation for the winter season,” said Wolf. “Not only are PennDOT’s staff, equipment and materials ready to go, but we also have yet another tool for the public to make winter travel decisions.”

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International magazine and the Traffic Technology Today website since he joined the company in May 2014. Prior to this he worked on some of the UK's leading consumer magazine titles including Men's Health and Glamour, beginning his career in journalism in 1997 after graduating with a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).

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