CLEARFIELD COUNTY, Pa. (WTAJ) — Each year winter weather causes hundreds of crashes on Pennsylvania roads. In Clearfield, the Central Regional Transportation Management Center (RTMC) is responsible for 26 counties.

On Monday, November 21, officials from four Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) districts held a combined event to discuss winter preparations and how the central Regional Transportation Management Center (RTMC) assists with situational awareness for the traveling public.

“We utilize the district 2 regional traffic management center for public and situational awareness, the regional traffic management center uses the message boards to impact and inform the public,” Ken Bair, Assistant District Executive Maintenance with District 3 said.

RTMC services include 24/7 monitoring and posting of road and bridge restrictions/closures, managing traffic-related and weather-related incidents, and oversight of the Intelligent Transportation System, which includes traffic cameras, message boards, and Highway Advisory Radio.

“The traffic managing center is kinda the nerve center of PennDOT operations,” Traffic Management Center Operations Supervisor Don Maicki said. “When it gets hectic like that everyone gathers in here and anybody from management, operations, everything gathers here and we kinda just sort out whatever problems that is coming up at that time.”

As part of a signage pilot project– the department has deployed variable speed limit, or VSL signs at 63 locations. 

They are located at the following locations:

  • 21 locations along I-80 in Clearfield (mile marker (MM) 100-133) and Clinton (MM 182-193) counties;
  • Six locations on I-80 in Clarion and Jefferson counties on the approaches to Emlenton Bridge (MM 42-45), North Fork Bridge (MM 78-81), and Kyle Lake Bridge (MM 92-95); and
  • 36 locations along I-81 from I-78 to I-80 in Lebanon (five locations), Luzerne (seven locations), and Schuylkill (24 locations) counties.

When visibility or roadway conditions call for lower speeds, the VSLs help to quickly reduce speed limits—displaying the lower speed limit vividly for motorists. When speed limits are reduced, a yellow light at the top and bottom of the VSL will be flashing to further ensure motorists are aware of the change.

“We kinda make a determination based on the criteria that’s being met if the speeds need lowered or not,” Maicki said.

With more than $212 million budgeted for this winter’s statewide operations, PennDOT deploys about 4,700 on-the-road workers, has more than 636,000 tons of salt on hand across the state, and will take salt deliveries throughout the winter.

The most important thing PennDOT employees say is to slow down.

“If in the winter time motorists change their daily routine and leave 15 minutes earlier than normal they can travel at appropriate speeds for winter conditions,” Jason Powell, District 2 Maintenance Operations Manager said.

If motorists encounter snow or ice-covered roads, they should slow down, increase their following distance and avoid distractions. Last winter in Pennsylvania, preliminary statewide data shows that there were 266 crashes resulting in two fatalities and 116 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 wintry weather by ensuring they have supplies in their vehicles 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.

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Motorists can check conditions on more than 40,000 roadway miles, including color-coded winter conditions on 2,900 miles, by visiting 511PA, which is free and available 24 hours a day, provides traffic delay warnings, weather forecasts, traffic speed information, and access to more than 1,000 traffic cameras.

511PA is also available through a free smartphone application for iPhone and Android devices, by calling 5-1-1, or by following regional Twitter alerts.