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Alert System Keeps Motorists Directly Informed of Road Trouble

NCJ Number
Techbeat Dated: March 2017 Pages: 10-11
Date Published
March 2017
2 pages
This article describes Pennsylvania's system for directly contacting motorists to inform them of the status of road conditions and emergencies on State highways.

The system, called 511PAConnect, was launched in December 2016 as a joint effort by the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA), the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, and the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission Development. This effort was spurred by a January 2016 snow storm that caused hundreds of motorists to be stranded on the Pennsylvania Turnpike for many hours. When the Department of Transportation and Turnpike staff identify a potential long-term closure on a limited access highway, they notify PEMA Similar to an AMBER Alert or weather alert, PEMA launches a Wireless Emergency Alert message that notifies motorists in the area of a problem and directs them to the 511PAConnect website, where they can sign up for direct update alerts. Motorists have the option of registering for automatic text messages or automated phone call updates, which are produced by the Pennsylvania Turnpike or the Department of Transportation. Motorists approaching but not yet trapped in a backup may receive a message before they reach the affected area. In order to register for the alerts, motorists are asked to provide basic information about their vehicle, number of passengers, and phone number. They will then receive a communication update every 15 minutes, explaining the situation and estimating how long it will take until the road is open. Sometimes there are situational awareness messages, such as reminding motorists to clear their cars of snow. Once the road situation is resolved, the State will delete the motorist's contact information from its system.

Date Published: March 1, 2017