PennDOT officials urge drivers to exercise caution as road construction season begins

SUSQUEHANNA TOWNSHIP, DAUPHIN COUNTY, Pa. — Monday’s rainy weather put a damper on some projects as PennDOT’s summer road construction season is now underway.

More than 1,700 projects statewide have already started or have been put up for bids this year.

PennDOT announced more than 100 of those road construction projects are scheduled for central Pennsylvania alone, but repairs aren’t the only things crews have their minds on this year.

There's something unusual happening on Pennsylvania roadways that has t been seen in nearly 100 years.

Pennsylvania Department of Transportation Secretary Leslie Richards said “we saw Pennsylvania’s lowest number of traffic fatalities since records have been kept in 1928. This is the lowest number ever recorded.”

Richards revealed there were 51 fewer traffic deaths in 2017 than in 2016, bringing the total number to an all-time low of 1,137 roadway deaths.

PennDOT will continue to work on addressing the leading causes of those traffic incidents.

“Driving while high, or taking medications where they don’t fully understand the impact is something that we’re really focusing on, as well as bicycling and pedestrian deaths,” Richards said.

As the summer road construction season begins, it’s easy to see that the dangers of the road aren’t limited just to drivers.

“Last week, we also were reminded when three employees were struck while doing pothole patching in Monroe County. Thankfully, they all survived,” Richards said.

Working with a state roadway system the size of New York’s, New Jersey’s, and New England combined, PennDOT is taking precautions when and where it can do so.

PennDOT District 8 executive Mike Reiser said “when we have that right opportunity and the right conditions, we can close the roadway. It’s the safest for the workers and the motorist.”

“Sometimes night work makes a lot of sense, sometimes night work is just too dangerous. So, we make that call in every single project, where it’s appropriate. Yes, we would prefer to do night work where we can. There are less people on the roads and it’s safer for our workers,” Richards said.

"We know that once we have state police in the work zone, it does get everyone’s attention, so they’ve been a great partner with us on that," Reiser said.

While PennDOT crews have miles upon miles of roads and bridges to repair, every driver is given another responsibility of their own.

"Slow down, take your time, and please plan accordingly. Leave plenty of time. If you’re running a few minutes late, please ask yourself the important questions, 'is running late as important as putting someone else’s life at risk,'" Richards said.

The website and mobile app 511PA will help provide the latest updates to anyone wondering what PennDOT road construction projects could affect their commute.

Another thing for motorists to keep an eye on while driving are potholes.

Drivers who see potholes that need fixing can alert PennDOT at 1-800-FIX-POTHOLE.

PennDOT officials encourage people to report problem spots, as they say they can’t fix what they don't see.