Frequently Asked Questions



Construction       top
Q.Why do contractors work while people are coming from or going to work, especially in the summer?
A.Every project is prepared with a Maintenance and Protection of Traffic plan (MPT) signed by the district traffic engineer and the assistant district engineer for construction. The MPT gives direction to the contractor when he can work on the roadway, take out lanes of traffic, detour traffic, etc. This direction is based on our best analysis of traffic flow and is sensitive to peak traffic volumes. Our primary construction season is from April through October. We try to complete projects during this timeframe and not during peak traveling times but sometimes an extenuating circumstance arises.
   
Q.Why do road projects take so long sometimes?
A.Some projects appear to take long because of the type of work being completed. Some direct factors are material availability, utility work, sub-contractor work, and type of structure involved. Indirect factors may be traffic volume, contractor staffing, and contractor equipment.
   

Traffic Issues       top
Q.Who is responsible for speed limits?
A.Local municipalities and PENNDOT are responsible for setting speed limits for the routes that each govern over.
   
Q.How do I get the speed limit changed?
A.Contract your local municipality. The municipality will then request an engineering and traffic study to be done by PENNDOT.
   
Q.Why is the speed limit higher going out of town than coming in?
A.Pennsylvania law requires a speed limit of 35 MPH when the area adjacent to and including any street “is built-up with structures devoted to business, industry, or dwelling houses situated at intervals of less than 100 feet for a distance of a quarter of a mile or more.” Therefore, when you are entering a town you must, by law, decrease your speed to 35 MPH. When you are leaving the town the speed limit usually increases because the area is not as concentrated. Municipalities are responsible for maintaining and erecting speed limits of signs less than 40 MPH.
   
Q.Why were traffic lines painted this way?
A.Traffic lines are traffic control devices that are designed according to the safety need(s) of the route(s).
   
Q.What’s the volume of traffic (A.D.T.) on that road?
A.Call the traffic unit with the state route number and specified segment (i.e. SR4003 SEG 10). State route numbers can be found on the rectangular white signs with black letters posted along the state routes.
   
Q.How can I get a student-walking route declared hazardous?
A.Only school districts can request a study of student-walking route. Contact the District Traffic Unit for information and the school district can request a study.
   
Q.I would like a “School Bus Stop Ahead”, “Hidden Driveway”, “Watch Children”, etc. sign erected. How does this get done?
A.Contact the municipality where the requested signs would be located since the municipal officials are responsible for purchasing, erecting and maintaining these signs after they obtain Department approval. PENNDOT reviews the location to determine if the sign is needed and where to place it.
   
Q.How does someone request a traffic signal?
A.Contact your local municipality. The municipalities purchase, erect, and maintain the signal, but only if a location meets requirements for a signal. A study will be done if a fund commitment is given by the municipality for the signal.
   
Q.Who is responsible for the traffic signal maintenance?
A.The local municipalities are responsible. PENNDOT only designs and issues permits for the local municipality.
   
Q.How do I get the timing of a traffic signal changed?
A.Contact the local municipality in which the traffic signal is located. The local municipality will then contact PENNDOT to officially request a timing change to the existing signal permit.
   
Q.Why is PENNDOT involved with traffic signals on a municipal highway?
A.Permits are issued by PENNDOT to erect traffic signals in order to insure uniformity of signal design and operation.
   

Winter Services       top
Q.How does PENNDOT prepare for a major snowstorm?
A.The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation currently uses a number of devices to track storms, including weather radar, pavement sensors, and forecasting services. These elements enable PENNDOT to quickly mobilize our employees and equipment and get a head start on approaching winter storms.
   
Q.I live on a back road. Why does it take so long for PENNDOT to service my road?
A.PENNDOT services roads on a priority basis with traffic volume being one of major priorities, such as interstates and four-lanes, receive service first, followed by secondary roads. During a winter storm, PENNDOT employees work around-the-clock so that all types of roads receive adequate service in priority order.
   
Q.What does PENNDOT put on slippery roads in the winter?
A.Salt, anti-skid, or a combination of these is applied to roadways during snow and ice removal operations. Anti-skid is a natural or man-made aggregate material such as sand, fine stone or manufacturing by-product. Salt helps to melt the snow or ice and the anti-skid provides for traction. The amount of material on the roadway depends on the type of road, type and duration of storm, and temperature. Additional pre-treating and anti-icing materials including magnesium chloride and liquid calcium chloride are currently being evaluated on interstates and a few other high priority roads in the region.
   
Q.How does PENNDOT service all the state roads throughout a county effectively?
A.“Stockpiles” are located throughout each county, which contain anti-skid material and salt and liquid chemicals. Several trucks are assigned to each stockpile to service the roads in the area of the county. PENNDOT also receives assistance from local municipalities and utilizes rented equipment.
   
Q.During a snowstorm, why is only one lane plowed on a multi-lane highway?
A.Often, only one lane is plowed because the driving lane has the highest priority during the storm. Whenever possible, “tandem plowing” (two trucks plowing side by side) take place.
   
Q.Why does a truck move so slowly while plowing snow and spreading anti-skid?
A.The driver must adjust his or her vehicle speed according to various conditions such as heavy or wet snow, ice, or residential areas. If traveling too fast, anti-skid will not stay on the road. Before you decide to pass a truck; however, ask yourself, “Is this pass really necessary?” Passing a snowplow can be extremely dangerous. There is never a “safe” time to pass, but if you must, do it with extreme caution.
   
Q.What is safe distance to follow behind a truck plowing snow?
A.The normal safe following distance between two vehicles (2-second rule) should be doubles during inclement weather. When following a truck, your headlights should be on low beam. Remember every truck has blind spots. This is an area to the side and rear not visible by the driver of the vehicle; it is greater for trucks. In addition, following too closely increases your chances of loose material flying up and damaging your vehicle.
   
Q.Why do bridges freeze before road surfaces?
A.Because the air below the bridges is colder than the ground under the roadway, this tends to cool the bridge faster than the normal road surface. Also, be cautious of shaded areas that don’t receive sunlight and drifted areas along the road.
   
Q.What is “black ice”?
A.Black ice is a thin layer of transparent ice not always visible on the roadway but very slippery.
   
Q.What does it mean to “pump your brakes”?
A.pply brakes gently and ease off then apply again and ease off. Turn wheel in direction of the skid. Avoid slamming of your brakes on slippery roads. Hard braking can lock your wheel and cause loss of steering. If you have anti-lock brakes, pumping is not recommended. Refer to your car manual about how anti-lock brakes differ from standard brakes. Most important, drive smart! Think ahead! Drive at a reduced speed!
   
Q.How can I prepare my vehicle for winter travel?
A.Clean snow and ice from your windows and mirrors before traveling. Make sure all lights are working, and always use your headlights during a storm. Keep wiper blades in good condition, and keep all fluid levels full. Check tires for tread and proper inflation, and add weight to rear-wheel-drive vehicles. Carry emergency equipment in your car such as flares, a shovel, chains, flashlight, jumper cables, sand, a hat, boots and gloves.
   
Q.Are there any “rules” for winter driving?
A.Remember this: Drive cautiously. Avoid making any sudden moves or fast turns. Avoid quick acceleration or hard braking. Slow and easy is the rule. Avoid tailgating. Drive defensively, watch the road around you and well ahead for any potential trouble. It’s all for good reason – your safety!
   
Q. Why does PENNDOT plow snow onto my sidewalk?
A.By legislation, PENNDOT is required to maintain the traveled cartway, defined as vehicle travel lanes, as its first priority. When limited storage space or shoulder areas allow no alternative, the decision must be made to either plow the highway at the risk of the sidewalk or to do nothing. Based on case law in Commonwealth Court, PENNDOT may inconvenience the property owner by plowing snow on the sidewalk rather than allowing snow accumulation to always recommend that where minimal storage space for plowed snow is an issue, our operators should exercise caution and minimize the impact on sidewalks whenever possible.
   
Q.Why do you have to plow my driveway shut?
A.Frequently, it appears that PENNDOT plows driveways shut after the property owners have already plowed their driveways. These complaints occur on our rural systems due to the fact that our highways are plowed in a priority order, beginning with the highest traffic volume routes and working toward this lower, or rural, traffic routes. Consequently, the rural driveway owners have completed the removal of snow on their driveways prior to our plowing operations. Further complicating this issue is our method of plowing cartways (traveled width) first, then following up with a cleanup and widening operation. This frequently results in the driveway owner immediately plowing his or her driveway after our truck makes its first pass, only to discover that our cleanup and widening pass deposits additional snow. Several ways that the impact of the plowing operation can be minimized are to remove snow only to approximately 10 feet from the end of your driveway until all passes are made by the snowplows. Another method is to clean an area in addition to your driveway on the right side of your driveway facing it from the roadway. This allows a plow blade full of snow to be deposited before it reaches your driveway.
   
Q.What are the dates when it is permissible to use studded snow tires?
A.Studded snow tires are permissible from November 1 until April 15.
   
Q.In inclement weather, people call asking what the road conditions are. Who can they call?
AFor current interstate road conditions throughout Pennsylvania, people can call 1.888.783.6783. For those with internet access, statewide road conditions are available through the PENNDOT Home Page (www.dot.state.pa.us) under the heading of “Roads and Highways”. Local radio stations also broadcast information on the road conditions.
   
Q.Will PENNDOT pay for any paint chips, cracks, a broken windshield, or any other damage to my car caused by their spreading of anti-skid?
A.Generally, PENNDOT is not held responsible for damage caused by the application of abrasives for winter services unless vehicles are struck directly from material leaving our spreaders and the claimant can demonstrate gross negligence on the part of our equipment operator. The Department of General Services claim form is available at PENNDOT county offices for the claimants to exercise their rights to attempt reimbursement.
   
Q.Will PENNDOT repair grass (turf) damage after heavy snow removal activities and clean debris out of my yard?
A.Typically, this damage occurs during heavy snowfalls requiring the use of loaders and large snow blowers, which do not perform in the same manner as our truck-mounted snow plows. However, the damage is generally confined to the legal right-of-way. While it is unsightly, the frequency and severity is proportional to the snow depths. PENNDOT does not repair these turf damages or remove deposited debris within the right-of-way limits on a routine basis. If property owners insist on reimbursement for conditions that occur beyond the legal right-of-way, we supply the standard Department of General Services claim form, which is available through the PENNDOT county offices.
   

Design       top
Q.Who do I talk to when I want to erect an outdoor advertising sign?
A.The District Right of Way Unit is in charge of the Outdoor Advertising Sign Program which includes all commercial and on premise business signing. Department erected (white on green) directional signs are issued in the District Traffic Unit. Call the District Right of Way Unit Outdoor Advertising section at 724.439.7146.
   
Q.Who should I contact if I want to know the legal width of a specific right of way for a state road?
A.As build plans and straight line plans are maintained by the District Survey Unit – this information can be obtained by contacting the District Survey Unit or phone 724.439.7274.
   
Q.I am an approved contractor and need additional information for a specific construction project I wish to bid, or would like to clarify terms or specifications listed in the bid packet, what number should I call?
A.The Contract Management Unit will be happy to assist you just phone 724.439.7443.
   
Q.I have a concern regarding a rail/highway crossing or a rail crossing that has recently become rough or hazardous who should I notify?
A.The District Grade Crossing Liaison can be contacted by calling 724.439.7112.
   
Q.I have a question relating to design of a specific project and do not know who the Project Manager is?
A.Call the Portfolio Manager’s office at 724.439.7336 or the AHDE-Design at 724.439.7259.
   

Road Maintenance       top
Q.Which herbicides are used by PENNDOT and what are their environmental impacts?
A.PENNDOT uses the herbicides Round-Up, Escort, Arsenal, Garlon-3A, Oust, Karmex, Vanquish, Krenite-S, Assure II, and Rodeo. There are few, if any, environmental problems with these herbicides. Each has caution labels, ditch bank labels, or aquatic labels. The only environmental problem that could occur is if the wrong herbicide is used in the wrong area. For example, Rodeo is an aquatic herbicide, so if Round-Up is used in its place, there would be a problem.
   
Q.Why isn’t the grass mowed more frequently?
A.PENNDOT mows along the interstates and primary traffic routes at least three times a year. Along other state routes, it’s once a year. Any more would be cost-prohibitive. Mowing is done because of safety and vegetative management (to control weeds, saplings, etc.). There is very little aesthetic effect involved.
   

Personal Property Issues       top
Q.How do I get traffic line paint off of my car?
A.As soon as possible after getting paint from road stripes on vehicle wash the vehicle at a pressure car wash. This will loosen and remove most of the paint unless it has dried for more than a day.

If the car wash does not remove the paint, allow the water to dry off the vehicle. Spray the paint residue with WD-40 and allow the WD-40 to stay on the area for 1-2 hours and rewash the vehicle. The WD-40 will soften the traffic paint without hurting the vehicle finish. If there is a heavy concentration, repeat the procedure.

For heavy accumulations or paint that has dried for several days, apply a liberal coating of petroleum jelly to the dried traffic paint and allow to stay on overnight. Take vehicle to a pressure car wash and wash. This should remove most of the traffic paint. Repeat the procedure if needed.

*DO NOT SCRUB THE FINISH WITH A SOLVENT OR SCOURING CLEANSER!!!! THIS WILL DAMAGE THE FINISH.

After cleaning the paint away apply a good car wax to the vehicle’s finish. Wax should remove any lasting signs of the traffic paint.

Wheel wells are very difficult to remove the paint from since they are normally a flat finish. Apply a liberal coating of petroleum jelly to the area and leave for several days and then pressure wash. Applying an alcohol such as Solox or Rubbing Alcohol to the area in the wheel well will help to soften any residue left after the petroleum jelly.

Again DO NOT SCRUB! Just apply with a very wet rag or sponge.