PennDOT offers tips to improve holiday travel

With increased traffic expected for the upcoming Thanksgiving travel period, PennDOT and Pennsylvania State Police outlined measures they will take and tools available to drivers to make holiday travel as safe and smooth as possible.

PennDOT urges drivers to take advantage of electronic resources to avoid traffic congestion.

PennDOT urges drivers to take advantage of electronic resources to avoid traffic congestion.

Thanksgiving travelers are encouraged to visit the “Historic Holiday Traffic” page at www.511PA.com, which allows users to see how traffic speeds on the Wednesday before and Sunday after Thanksgiving in 2014 and 2015 compare to traffic conditions during a typical, non-holiday week. Users can choose their region and view an hour-by-hour, color-coded visual of traffic speeds to help them decide the best times to travel during the holiday. 511PA also offers real-time, traffic speed information for roughly 2,900 highway miles of roadways throughout the state, a PennDOT press release said.

“I encourage all motorists to use 511PA, not only for their holiday travels, but also throughout the winter season,” PennDOT Secretary Leslie S. Richards said in the release. “From traffic speeds and cameras to plow tracking, the site and mobile applications are great resources to help make travel decisions.”

PennDOT traffic management staff have analyzed this holiday data and identified locations and time frames where congestion typically increases dramatically during the holiday and will take steps to try to alleviate congestion and improve safety. The department will also partner with police for increased, strategic enforcement of speed and impaired driving laws. Travel data was also shared with the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency for distribution to 9-1-1 centers so staff is aware of and can plan for peak travel times, when call volume could increase, the release said.

“We’re always looking for new ways to use our resources to improve our operations and the public’s mobility,” Richards said in the release. “These efforts are more examples of how we’re striving to embody the governor’s ‘Government That Works’ agenda every day.”

To attempt to ease congestion, the department will use highway advisory radio messages and electronic message boards to encourage travelers to reroute onto U.S. 22 westbound, which typically has excess capacity, and it will partner with state police on concentrated traffic enforcement near this area and to actively clear disabled vehicles from shoulders.

In the Philadelphia region, staff identified I-95 in Delaware County and the Schuylkill Expressway as target areas and will have a trooper stationed in the regional traffic management center from Thursday through Sunday for faster communications to field personnel for quick incident and shoulder clearance, and increase the hours that PennDOT’s State Farm Safety Patrol will be on duty.

To further increase traffic-data availability for traffic management staff, PennDOT has created a portal through which staff can receive prioritized reports from Waze, a real-time crowd-sourced navigation app through which drivers share road conditions. As a member of the Waze Connected Citizens Program, the department can receive incident or roadway concern alerts faster and respond more quickly if necessary.

PennDOT will also remove lane restrictions and suspend construction projects wherever possible through the holiday period. Motorists can see remaining construction projects at www.511PA.com before they travel. The public can use the free 511PA to check conditions on nearly 40,000 roadway miles in Pennsylvania.

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