News

Turnpike section where hundreds were stranded will reopen

Written by Tim Lambert and The Associated Press | Jan 24, 2016 12:04 PM
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In this photo provided by Dave Saba, traffic is at a standstill on the Pennsylvania Turnpike near Somerset, Pa., Saturday, Jan. 23, 2016. The Duquesne men's basketball team and Temple University's women's gymnastics team are stuck on the Turnpike due to treacherous weather conditions. A mammoth winter storm crawled up the U.S. East Coast on Saturday, making roads impassable, shutting down mass transit, and bringing Washington and New York City to a standstill. (Dave Saba via AP)

(Harrisburg) -- A section of the Pennsylvania Turnpike in western Pennsylvania is expected to re-open today, after hundreds of vehicles were stranded between Bedford and Somerset during the massive winter storm.

More than 500 cars, trucks and buses, including those carrying the Duquesne University men's basketball team and the Temple University gymnastics squad, got stuck on a portion of the toll road Friday night as the storm hit. 

Governor Tom Wolf says only 20 tractor-trailers remain on the turnpike section in Somerset County.

He says the commonwealth will review at what happened and how it can better prepared if a similar situation occurs again.

"To the extent that there were people who experienced hardship, we need to figure out how to do a better job there and that's one of the things we are going to do," he says. "I think statewide we did a good job, but there's no question for the people trapped between Somerest and Bedford on the Turnpike that was something we're sorry it happened."

Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency Director Rick Flinn says two shelters were opened in Bedford County in response and 216 people were assisted.

Another 200 people stayed in nearby hotels.

Turnpike Commission CEO Mark Compton has vowed "an extensive after-action review."

"When you're in a section of the roadway that's very mountainous, you're in a section what we call cattleshoots because of the fact that it's in a construction area and on a good day, that's very narrow because of that set up," he says.  "So, we're going to take a hard look at how these tractor trailers got together, what was the word on if they should or shouldn't have been there, and the timing of that message. If it's in a construction zone, should they have only been in one lane versus the two lanes because of the wider lane in the left side."

But, he praised the work of more than 300 responders, like state police, Pennsylvania National Guard personnel and others, for assisting those who were stuck in their cars.

"We watched those folks clear an estimate of over 500 vehicles. I'm not sure I could have done what those folks did," he says. "So as it relates to an after-action review, we're going to take a look at all those things. But, as it relates to the folks who responded, I'm not sure I could have asked them to do another thing."

The section of the turnpike is expected to be reopened by mid-afternoon Sunday.

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In this photo provided by Michael Watkins, traffic is at a standstill on the Pennsylvania Turnpike near Bedford, Pa., Saturday, Jan. 23, 2016. The Duquesne men's basketball team and Temple University's women's gymnastics team are stuck on the Turnpike due to treacherous weather conditions. A mammoth winter storm crawled up the U.S. East Coast on Saturday, making roads impassable, shutting down mass transit, and bringing Washington and New York City to a standstill. (AP Photo/Michael Watkins via AP)

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