Pennsylvania Turnpike makes major changes after snowstorm that stranded drivers

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Seven months after releasing an "after action review report" addressing shortfalls that led to segments of the Pennsylvania Turnpike being shut down last January, the management team overseeing the Pennsylvania Turnpike said they are confident that the failures that led to frustrated customers stranded on the road won't happen again.

Winter storm Jonas, which swept through Pennsylvania on Jan. 22, left some drivers stranded on the road until Jan. 24. Trucks, cars and buses carrying hundreds of people were frozen in place, stranding schoolchildren and the Duquesne men's basketball team.

Officials who oversee the turnpike were open about the problems that needed to be addressed, and spent the better part of a year working to fix them.

"I've been very impressed with our team and the way in which we went about tackling each of those issues," said Mark Compton, CEO of the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

One the biggest issues that officials faced was the forecast. The turnpike is 550 miles long, and the weather from one end of the state to the other can be drastically different.

"It's really trying to fine-tune not weather resources, but really fine-tune specific resources tailored to the turnpike," Compton said.

The turnpike signed a new contract with AccuWeather in September that gives an individual forecast for each one-tenth of a mile of road along the turnpike's route.

"We're going to be getting that information at a much closer level than we had previously. We're going to understand what's happening and when it's going to start happening," said Craig Shuey, COO of the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

Stranded drivers in January complained that they received little to no communication. The turnpike said it's weeks away from launching technology that will allow it to ping cellphones to allow drivers in affected areas to communicate directly with turnpike officials.

A sneak peek at screen grabs of the program showed that officials will be able to highlight sections of the road and instantly send a message to the drivers there. And Turnpike officials promised that more information will be passed on to drivers in a more timely fashion.

Stockpiles of water and protein bars were placed at locations all along the road, so that in the event of another emergency, crews will be able to deliver them to any location within two hours.

Comments on this article